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TCU attempts to combat unconscious bias through anonymous grading feature

History professor Jodi Campbell conducting research in her office in Reed Hall. Fort Worth, Texas. Monday Feb. 4, 2019, (TCU 360/ Brandon Ucker)

The adjectives ‘faceless’ and ‘nameless’ might not be associated with grading; but a new feature in D2L hides the identities of students during the grading process.

The goal is “to decrease unconscious bias in the grading and feedback process”by removing students’ names from assignments, according to an email sent to faculty by the Koehler Center for Instruction Innovation and Engagement.

Researchers suggest that unconscious bias can occur when people make quick judgments based on past experiences.

The benefits of anonymous grading has been studied.

“It’s a good way to prevent people not only from being bias against certain people or kinds of people but the other direction,” Vikram David Amar, Dean of the University of Illinois College of Law. “It prevents instructors from playing favorites because they happen to like or think highly of someone.”

A Scantron is filled out with the name missing in the Mary Couts Burnett Library, Fort Worth, TX.  Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, TCU’s use of the new anonymous grading feature aims to eliminate unconscious bias in the classroom. (TCU 360/Brandon Ucker)

Although there is no information on the number of professors using this feature, Romana Hughes, who is also assistant provost of educational technology and faculty development, wrote in an email that the tool has been received well by faculty.

“[The] Anonymous Marking of Assignments feature gives instructors (or TAs with grading access) the ability to read and assign grades to submissions without knowing which student submitted which item until after publishing the grades to the Grades tool,” Director of the Koehler Center Romana Hughes wrote in an email.

“Instructors are always looking for ways to improve their teaching,”  Hughes wrote. “This new feature, as mentioned above will make their grading more objective and consistent by decreasing unconscious bias when grading.”

Jodi Campbell, a history professor at TCU said she has caught herself succumbing to unconscious bias and that it can affect anyone.

“Last night I was grading a pile of papers and I was reading one and was kind of surprised that it was a little better or worse than I expected, and I suddenly realized it was a different student than who I thought it was.”

Junior neuroscience major Lauren McCue said grades can be influenced by more than a student’s work.

She said one of her friends who is Hispanic told her that the friend wasn’t penalized from grammatical errors in a paper because the professor thought English was not his first language.

McCue believes there is potential for this new feature to fight against unconscious bias.

“I think if the professors actually commit to using it, it can make an impact,” said McCue.

Amar said blind grading is already used during standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, Medical College Acceptance Test (MCAT) and Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT).

“If you really want to judge the work on its own, then you should just look at the work and not the identity of the author.”

Amar said blind grading cannot work for certain formats, such as writing papers that require a student to get a pre-approved topic, but “where it can work, it seems so obviously superior.”

TCU Frog Camps returning to more traditional look this summer

Frog Camp was held Aug. 12-16 on campus and online. (Heesoo Yang/Staff Photographer)

TCU’s Frog Camp continues to serve its purpose for incoming students as it approaches 30 years of camps, and will return to its normal format after being impacted by the pandemic last summer.

The camp was created by Barbara Herman in 1993 in hopes to bring the incoming TCU community closer together before actually getting to campus. The camp provides lifelong memories, a stable support system coming into campus and an understanding of all the available resources around the TCU community.

Why Frog Camp got started

Although Frog Camp is not mandatory, it is a major component of TCU’s First-Year Experience program which is designed to create a welcoming environment for incoming students.

Traditions

One way Frog Camp makes sure to make the environment as comfortable and welcoming as possible is the inclusive traditions incorporated into the camp.

Frog Camp traditions include games, dancing, team bonding and learning the true meanings behind some of TCU’s traditions such as the Riff Ram Bah Zoo chant. 

“Each camp has its own unique traditions that serve to give the camp its own personality and purpose,” Hudson Auerbach, a TCU junior political science major on the Frog Camp Director Board, said. 

One unwritten tradition most students leave Frog Camp having experienced are the relationships they form. 

“Many come in pretty nervous as they do not know anyone at camp or coming to TCU. Within a few days, they leave not just knowing people also going to TCU but with friends who are going to TCU,” Brian McDermott, assistant director of first-year experience, said.

Statistics

In order to make Frog Camp a unique and special experience for everyone involved, facilitators and directors have made sure to provide enough resources for everyone to form personal connections.

Although there are many different Frog Camps offered, one of the main focuses is to form deep friendships that will last throughout a student’s time at TCU and beyond.

Typically, there will be about 250-275 students at each camp. Within this big group of students are many different small groups that consist of only 10-15 students.

These small groups will have two co-facilitators, one male and one female. The small groups will also have one faculty or staff member join the group to serve as a resource for incoming students once they arrive on campus.

This year

Last year, Frog Camp was only held on the TCU campus due to the pandemic, but things are beginning to look up for this coming summer.

Frog Camp is returning to the more traditional values that come along with the camp while still following the safety guidelines that come with COVID-19.

This summer, six camps will be offered in Fort Worth (3 Casa Nueva camps, 2 Cultura camps, and 1 All-Stars camp) and one camp will take place in Bruceville, TX (Challenge).

There will also be two Alpine camps this summer which take place in Colorado. These camps will offer multiple activities and bonding opportunities for incoming students to enjoy with their future peers including sightseeing, games, dinners and many more excursions that go along with the location of the camp. 

Incoming students should continue to check their emails for more Frog Camp information. They can also go to sds.tcu.edu for more details. 

Advice going into Frog Camp from current students

“Have fun and remember, the more you put into Frog Camp, the more you get out of it,” Auerbach said.

“Be willing to be vulnerable and open-minded,” Jordyn Delong, senior child development major, said. 

“Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone,” Laurel Stanley, a TCU junior art history major, said.

Former Fort Worth, TCU Police Department officer dies of COVID-19 and on-duty injury complications

A long-time Fort Worth police officer died Saturday from complications of COVID-19 and on-duty injuries (Photo Courtesy of TCU News)

A well-respected TCU Police Department officer died Saturday of complications related to COVID-19 and several past on-duty injuries.

David A. Marshall, 61, had served as a TCU police officer since 2016. His death was announced in an email to the TCU community by Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs Kathryn Cavins Tull Tuesday. 

Marshall is survived by his wife Kathy, brothers Stephan and John, mother Carolyn and three children.

In her email to the TCU community, Executive Assistant to the Chancellor Bridget Ledesma wrote that “David enjoyed traveling, vacations with his family and spending time with his brother and their families. David was always happy and had an infectious smile.”

David Marshall’s brother, John Marshall, is also a former TCUPD officer and remembered his brother for his positive attitude and family-first mentality.

“He loved police work in every sense but his life was his family,” John Marshall said.

The Texas native started his career with the Fort Worth Police Department in 1984 and served as a Deputy Sheriff in Colorado before retiring with FWPD with the rank of Sergeant in 2014. David Marshall was also a U.S. Army reserve during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. 

In 2016, David Marshall came out of retirement and earned the rank of Corporal as a TCU police officer.

Interim Chief of Police Robert Rangel described David Marshall as having “a warrior’s spirit but a servant’s heart.”

In his career, David Marshall was professional but “was always ready with a smile and a joke,” John Marshall added.

David Marshall’s long-term partner at both the FWPD and TCUPD, Lt. Kevin Foster, said he would find the bright side of things when situations were unpleasant, recalling how David Marshall was cracking jokes over the phone and texting positive messages while in the hospital.

Assistant Professor of Military Science Maj. Edward Carr remembered David Marshall for his positive presence in an email to Rangel Tuesday.

“He assisted with several ROTC events and was always a joy to have around and talk to when training was slow,” wrote Carr in the email. “If he was working at 0530 in the morning, he could always be counted on to show up and unlock the gates to the track with a smile and a warm ‘How you guys doing this morning’.” 

The TCU flag is lowered to half-staff in honor of David Marshall’s service to TCU.

“He really cared about TCU and the TCU students and staff. He liked being there,” John Marshall said.

A celebration of life will be held Thursday, May 6, at 7:30 pm at the Fort Worth Police & Fire Fighters Memorial at 2201 West 7th Street.

Cap and gown shipments delayed, off-color versions handed out for 2020, 2021 graduates

Seniors received off-color gowns but will be able to exchange them for the correct shade of purple. (Photo Courtesy of Ashley Travis)

Delays from a graduation vendor are causing long lines and some students to be turned away from picking up their cap and gown until more shipments arrive.

Jostens, TCU’s regalia vendor, began passing out cap and gowns to both 2020 and 2021 graduates on Tuesday. A delivery delay last week pushed back the start date from Monday.

A look at the line to pick up graduation regalia Thursday (Benton McDonald/TCU360)

By Thursday, students had reported lines stretching multiple hours at the TCU Bookstore to pick up their regalia. Some were being told that their items were not in stock after getting to the front of the line and told to come back later.

An email sent out by the university Thursday morning acknowledged the delays in distributing the items to the more than 2,500 graduates from the combined classes of 2020 and 2021.

The email added that Jostens will double their number of representatives to distribute regalia in an effort to shorten wait times. 

Different shades of purple

While some soon-to-be graduates have yet to receive their cap and gown, others who did began noticing that they were receiving two different shades of purple.

“I wasn’t aware I was getting the wrong shade of purple,” Drew Stewart, a senior environmental policy and sustainability major said. “Jostens actually gave me the completely wrong size the first time, and I had to replace it.”

Stewart compared his shade of cap and gown to the shade students normally wear. (Photo Courtesy: Drew Stewart)

He had some sharp words for the company.

“If I were Jostens, I would simply have practiced some quality control before delivering the wrong colors to TCU,” Stewart said.

Ashley Travis, a senior criminal justice and psychology major, said she and her roommates also got the wrong shade.

“I went to pick my gown up at the bookstore and they didn’t have my order ready, so they freaked it from a box on the side,” Travis said. “I didn’t know it was the wrong color until a friend asked me about the variety of shades of purple.”

TCU’s email on the delays Thursday also addressed the color disparity. Students who received “off-color” regalia can exchange it from 2:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the bookstore, or from 10:30 a.m – 2:00 p.m. Friday in the tunnel entrance to Schollmaier Arena.

If students are unable to make those times but wish to exchange their gown, they are able to before each ceremony in the tunnel entrance, according to the email.

More shipments of caps and gowns are also expected this afternoon. The first graduation ceremony, for the class of 2020, is set to begin at 4:00 p.m. Friday.

Grains to grocery: One bread maker brings together farmers and artisans at locally-sourced store

Trent Shaskan, Fort Worth bread maker, owner of The Table

Grains to grocery

A Fort Worth bread maker opens a local grocery store for farmers and artisans

Students debut performances of drag personas as part of unique new course

A rainbow flag is held in the crowd during the drag show event (JD Pells/Staff Photographer)

The Queer Art of Drag

A new course taught students how to create their own drag personas.

Condensed semester, lost week to snowstorm adding to some students stress during finals week

Students study out on the Commons.
Students study in the commons as finals approach. (Heesoo Yang/Staff Photographer)

A second semester without built-in study days is making the last week of classes and exams more difficult for some students.

As part of a condensed semester schedule amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the normal ‘dead days’ of no classes before final exams begin have been eliminated this year.

While the days also did not occur in the fall, some students are struggling to find time to complete their remaining assignments, study for their finals and, for those living on-campus, coordinate their move-out arrangements. 

“I had an essay due Friday night, a final Monday morning followed by three more later in the week, and I have to move out of my dorm before Saturday morning,” said Brooke Mcnulty, a junior communication major. “I have been extremely overwhelmed and think the lack of study days have played a crucial role in my stress.” 

Make-up classes and work from the February snowstorm are also adding to the pressure of a condensed semester. 

Some students feel that the university’s decision to take the few free days away is unfair and will harshly impact their final grades.

“I feel like I constantly need to remind myself to take time to relax and not get too caught up in the workload,” said Hannah Geschke, a junior strategic communication major. “Whenever I feel like the stress is becoming too much I try to either go to the gym or go for a run.”

Helping manage stress

A number of services are being offered by TCU to help students through a stressfull academic time.

Isabella Potts holding a baby pig at Worth Hills Fun Fair. (Photo courtesy of Isabella Potts)

The counseling and mental health center has made efforts to increase resources and mental health awareness through the Virtual Letter of Care Campaign and support groups, leading some students to realize the importance of taking care of themselves physically and mentally.

“Having the majority of my classes online and not having as many reasons to leave my dorm due to the amount of studying I have has caused my stress levels to skyrocket,” said Isabella Potts, a sophomore psychology major. “Luckily, TCU has been planning events to help students briefly take their mind off all the chaos.”

Potts said that TCU is making an effort to make up for the lack of study days by planning events and activities, such as the Worth Hills Fun Fair, the Brett Young concert and the TCU state fair that was put on by Frog Aides. 

Potts added that all these events have been a way for her to relieve stress and safely meet new people around campus.

Frog Aides helps supports local businesses with on-campus ‘state fair’ event

Frog Aides TCU State Fair
SGA Frog Aides held a TCU State Fair in the commons. (Photo courtesy of Frog Aides via Instagram)

TCU’s first-year leadership organization hosted an on-campus state fair to make the Campus Commons feel more like home during an unprecedented year.

Frog Aides, which is part of the Student Government Association (SGA), brought in multiple local businesses to showcase different aspects of Texas culture for its annual spring event.

Katie Harris rides a bull at TCU State Fair. (Mia Yarto/Reporter)

Frog Aides is a first-year leadership organization that aims to teach students the importance of taking action and the impact actions have on the student body and community. 

“Every year Frog Aides puts on a big spring event that is 100% determined by the first-year members of the cohort,” said Wyatt Reiter, sophomore english and political science major and the leader of the general logistics group for the Frog Aides event. “This year they collectively decided to host a TCU State Fair. Their reasoning was they wanted to make TCU feel more like home during this crazy time.”

The organization brought a Salsa Limon food truck, Hertz donuts, line dancing teachers, a caricature artist, an obstacle course, a mechanical bull and a longhorn, all of which were sourced from local Fort Worth businesses. 

“We wanted to show off some of the really fun aspects of Texas culture while showing our support for local businesses,” said Reiter.

Katie Harris, a sophomore strategic communication major, said her favorite activity was riding the mechanical bull. 

Students gathering in the commons for TCU State Fair. (Mia Yarto/Reporter)

“Every time I see a mechanical bull I get really excited. They’re so fun and I only ever see them when I’m in Texas,” said Harris. 

The event raised over $500 for DRC Solutions, a local charity that helps families within the Fort Worth community emerge from homelessness.

COVID-19 protocols remain up in the air for fall semester

TCU welcomed students home amid the pandemic. (Heesoo Yang/Staff Photographer)

COVID-19 protocols will be in place at TCU next fall, but its unclear what they will look like.

Earlier this semester, Chancellor Victor Boschini announced that TCU is planning on an in-person and on-campus experience for the fall.

The announcement was met with gratitude by students, but also questions on what the campus experience would look like.

Read more: TCU announces ‘back to campus’ plans for fall semester

Director of Emergency Management Sean Taylor said that there cannot be a definitive plan due to the constant changes of the pandemic.

“A lot can change between now and fall,” said Taylor. “I do think that testing and having to be tested will still be around.”

Taylor hopes that COVID-19 at-home tests will be more readily available, making testing easier and more accessible.

TCU COVID-19 testing site in the Schollmaier parking lot.
TCU COVID-19 testing site in the Schollmaier parking lot. (Heesoo Yang/Staff Photographer)

As of now, TCU plans to continue providing tests but has not said if they will require the COVID-19 vaccine.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order last month that banned organizations that received public funding from mandating the vaccine, and Taylor said that may have made the universities decision for them.

“We would not be able to get grants and a lot of the other funding that we get from the government if we required it,” said Taylor. “So that is basically off the table for us in the state of Texas for now.”

Although the vaccination is not a requirement right now, it could be in the future and the topic has been discussed heavily. 

“If it were only my decision we would definitely require it,” said Taylor.

At a faculty town hall in March, Boschini said that TCU was watching how other universities implement mandatory vaccines but had not made a decision yet.

Senior nursing major Bailey Cook (right) administers a COVID-19 vaccine at the university's walk-up clinic.
Senior nursing major Bailey Cook (right) administers a COVID-19 vaccine at the university’s walk-up clinic. (TCU/Instagram)

Regardless of what they decide, Taylor emphasized the importance of reporting off-campus vaccinations and the role it has on preparation for next semester.  

“If people have been vaccinated and they have not reported it to us, it really helps us plan for our public health measures if they let us know that they have,” Taylor said.

Over 6,400 members of the campus community have reported receiving at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the university dashboard.

Boschini has said that TCU would need to reach at least 70 percent of vaccinated members for the university to achieve herd immunity. They are at roughly 53 percent Tuesday.

Alpha Chi Omega wears denim, helps raise awareness for sexual assault

Greek
The Alpha Chi Omega house in greek village (Heesoo Yang/Staff Photographer)

A sorority that annually donates six-figures to organizations helping people overcome from crisis and trauma helped raise awareness for sexual assault last month.

The TCU chapter of Apha Chi Omega had multiple events throughout April to raise awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Each year on the last Wednesday in April, the sorority takes part in National Denim Day.

Denim Day is the longest-running sexual violence prevention and education campaign.

According to the Denim Day informational website, the day began after the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction because they felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her attacker remove them and implied consent. The following day, women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans in support of the victim. 

“This year to celebrate this impactful day of awareness, all of our members wore denim and we had a tabling event with cookies, a balloon arch and sexual assault teal ribbons,” said Allyson Joyce, sophomore social work and communications double major and Alpha Chi Omega’s VP philanthropy chair. 

Alpha Chi Omega participates in Denim Day and stands in solidarity with sexual assault survivors. (Photo courtesy of Allyson Joyce)

Joyce added one of her favorite things she has done as VP of philanthropy is starting the Alpha Chi Omega survivor support group for her sisters who have experienced trauma.

“One-third of college women will experience sexual assault, so awareness and prevention are critical,” said Joyce. “I always tell our members when working with survivors it is important to remember this model: believe, listen, affirm, empower, support.”

The chapter mainly works with the Women’s Center of Tarrant County. 

This year the chapter has raised over $108,000 for the Women’s Center and this semester its members had more than 600 hours of service.

Alpha Chi Omega is the top fundraising chapter at TCU, as well as the top fundraising Alpha Chi Omega chapter nationwide.

Abortion access threatened as restrictive bills make their way through Texas Legislature

Clinic manager Angelle Harris walks in the front door of the Whole Woman's Health clinic in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. Faced with drives of four hours or more to Fort Worth, Dallas, El Paso or out-of-state clinics, many women in West Texas and the Panhandle need at least two days to obtain an abortion _ a situation that advocates say exacerbates the challenges of arranging child care, taking time off work and finding lodging. Some end up sleeping in their cars. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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