A University of Maryland student’s father died of COVID-19. A professor encouraged her to keep up with coursework.

A letter to University of Maryland faculty members urged them to “be flexible... and be compassionate and considerate” after a student says she was asked to complete coursework as she was grieving her father who died of COVID-19.

“We know that many of you are going to extraordinary measures to assist students through difficult times, and we thank you,” read the April 30 letter to faculty at the College Park campus. “We continue to encourage everyone to be empathetic to students’ circumstances. Please make accommodations and be flexible as necessitated by the needs of your students.”


The letter from the head of Maryland’s business school was in response to complaints by 20-year-old Saige Kratenstein, of New Jersey, who said her father passed away due to complications from COVID-19 on April 13, but she was told by a professor she still had to complete coursework the day of the funeral.

“I just didn’t want this to happen to someone else. It’s not right. It’s not humane. It’s just wrong," Kratenstein, a junior business major, said in an interview Saturday.


Kratenstein said she had been in touch with her professors, alerting the to her father’s death, but when she sought an extension from one professor for work due the day of his funeral the following week, she said she was told to complete the work anyway.

A screen grab she posted to Twitter of the professor’s email said “I highly recommend and encourage you to participate” and that it “could take her mind off things” and that the material will be on an upcoming exam. She did not name the professor.

Katie E. Lawson, a school spokeswoman, said officials first learned of Kratenstein’s complaints after her Twitter posts began circulating on April 30. She said the vice president for student affairs, the director of undergraduate academic counseling for the business school and a school chaplain quickly reached out to Kratenstein to offer support and work with her to accommodate her coursework.

“We have offered academic accommodations, as well as support services for our student’s mental and emotional health," Lawson said in a statement.

Additionally, she said faculty have been urged to work with students facing difficult circumstances amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Since our move to online learning during this ongoing pandemic, our faculty have received guidance to provide accommodations, flexibility and compassion to students during these challenging and unprecedented times,” Lawson said. “We have seen countless inspiring examples of this from our faculty and staff who care deeply about our students.”

Kratenstein said her other professors have been accommodating. She said she had not heard from the professor whose exchanges she posted to social media, but is hoping to work with school officials for an extension to complete her coursework.