Allow Unconditional Pass/Fail Grading- American University

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Hello AU Administration,

On October 19th 2020, The provost announced a partial pass/fail option for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 semester. The reasons stated were “impacts of COVID-19” and “Zoom fatigue.” There are a plethora of issues that students are dealing with, including family members suffering with COVID-19, accessibility issues i.e. technological and physical barriers, challenges with employment, food insecurity, healthcare disparities, racism, mental illness, family burden, troubled/unstable home environments, the 2020 election, and many more. It is crucial that the University acknowledges the nuances of each student’s experiences and capacities. Simply expressing that there have been “impacts” is not enough—this broad statement does not address the actual burdens that have been placed on many of us.

The pandemic emerged in the Spring 2020 semester, and we–as students–were given the option to opt for pass/fail for any amount of classes we wanted, under any condition. During this semester, we can now only opt for one non-elective class along with one elective class. Many of us are taking five or more non-elective classes, which does not align with the University’s restricted pass/fail option for Fall 2020. We deserve an option to opt for pass/fail for more than one non-elective class. When the provost announced the unconditional pass/fail option on March 26, 2020 for the Spring 2020 semester, there had been 16,988 COVID-19 cases and 877 deaths in the US according to the CDC. Today, we’ve had over 12.7 million cases and over 260,000 deaths. This stressful and uncertain environment is extremely difficult for students, combined with many of the factors listed earlier. 

While we sincerely appreciate the accommodations made to allow students to declare pass/fail up to 5 days after final grades are posted, we feel that limiting the option to one non-elective class is not enough. GPA, while not indicative of one’s learning or academic ability, is incredibly important to graduate schools, scholarships and employment. We students are struggling with learning online, communicating via delayed emails, working on group projects remotely, not being able to concentrate on a digital screen, along with obstacles outside academics, given the fact that we are not on campus. We do not deserve to be penalized for our performance during a global crisis, and we plead for you to allow us to take more than one non-elective course pass/fail. 

The stress of this pandemic will stain our transcripts for years to come if we are not allowed this accommodation. Graduate schools and employers will consider the fact that the Spring and Fall semesters were during the same year, so the effect on students was the same, when this is not the case. The climate during this semester is so much more dire than the Spring and therefore the accommodations should align with the severity of what students are going through. The students with advantages this semester will be looked at by graduate schools and employers as more capable than those without, which is disastrous for students’ futures.  Therefore, we are calling on the American University administration to allow for the unconditional pass/fail option for the Fall 2020 online semester. Also, so long as our semester is fully online and the pandemic continues, these issues will only get worse. If the issues that students are facing persist, we would like the same accommodations for the Spring 2021 semester.


American University Students

Co-signed by:

Public Health Association @ AU
AU Black Student Union
AU Best Buddies
AU Public Health Scholars
Aerospace Society at AU
American University Class of 2024 Council
American University Meditation Club
American University Pride
Asian American Student Union
Black Girls Vote
Black Wellness & Liberation Coalition
Delta Phi Epsilon at AU
Ethiopian and Eritrean Student Association
First Generation Student Union
Fossil Free AU
German Language and Culture Club
Hawai’i Club
Muslim Student Association
Roosevelt Network at AU
Saudi Student Association
Sikh Student Association
Sister Circle
Social Enterprise Association
South Asian Student Association
Students Against Human Trafficking
Students for Justice in Palestine
Students for a Just Society
Sunrise AU
The Blackprint AU
The Rose at AU
United Students Against Sweatshops
Women’s Initiative