College student whose dad died from coronavirus denied project extension

Gwen Aviles

A college student who asked her professor for an assignment extension after her father died from complications related to COVID-19 was told to "try to get it done in time" via email, according to a viral post that's sparked outrage and conversation about which demands are reasonable to place on students during this time.

Saige Kratenstein, a junior at the University of Maryland, tweeted an email she says she got from her finance professor last Thursday. The professor, who did not respond to NBC News' request for comment, instructed Kratenstein that it would be "better" for her to complete the assignment on time as she likes to be "consistent with students because there are many who are having difficult times."

In a separate email Kratenstein tweeted, the professor told Kratenstein that keeping up with the work "could take your mind off things," a response the student found "incredibly insensitive."

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"I didn't bother to continue fighting it. I guess she, in her mind, felt like everyone was going through a hard time, as she said, but I had just lost my dad," Kratenstein said. "I was definitely kind of shocked and a little taken back by it."

Kratenstein, 20, said she has asked other professors for similar extensions and that they had been "much more understanding."

"A lot of them said not to even worry about the rest of the semester and that they could exempt me from everything," Kratenstein said. "They told me to focus on my family and were very considerate and understanding. She was the only one I didn't receive a compassionate response from."

Kratenstein posted a screenshot of the emails on social media and urged educators to "do better."

"I simply asked my prof for a few days extension on a project because MY DAD died as a result of covid19 and THIS is the response I get," Kratenstein wrote. "DO. BETTER."

Saige, right, with her sister, Ivy, mother, Liz and father, Alan. (Courtesy of Saige Kratenstein)
Saige, right, with her sister, Ivy, mother, Liz and father, Alan. (Courtesy of Saige Kratenstein)

She received hundreds of supportive comments in response, with many empathizing with the "horrifying" nature of the professor's response and expressing condolences for her loss. The viral tweets also caught the attention of the administration at the University of Maryland who Kratenstein says is now working with her on academic accommodations. The finance course was a required course for her marketing major.

"They've checked in on me and they're getting it all handled," Kratenstein said. "My advisors have been amazing and I'm grateful for their help."

Kratenstein's father, Alan, died on April 13 at 63 years old. The college student said she hadn't been able to see her father since he went to the hospital on March 29.

"It's been really difficult," Kratenstein said. "All anybody is talking about is the coronavirus and that is essentially what took my dad away from me. It's difficult hearing about it and the littlest things remind me of my dad and I'll just start bawling."

A University of Maryland spokesperson confirmed that the school has "offered academic accommodations," including granting the extension Kratenstein asked for, "as well as support services for our student’s mental and emotional health."