Pass/Fail grading option for CUNY students

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Andrew Shkreli
Andrew Shkreli signed this petition

On March 11, CUNY announced that classes will transition to "distance learning" for the remainder of the spring semester.

We appreciate the response from CUNY to place the well-being of its students at the forefront. We also understand the difficulty of the decision and appreciate the care of the instructors in working hard to transition to an online system. However, the sudden change has a left a large majority of the students under emotional stress regarding the academic consequences. We believe that a change must be made on the grading basis to reflect the transition. Many Universities such as Harvard, Cornell, Georgetown, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have announced that they will be transitioning to an alternate grading policy, which is a structure of pass/fail grading in the event of significant disruption. 

We propose that students should have the option to continue to receive letter grades or to transition onto an emergency pass/fail grading basis for all courses (major/minor courses included).

The added stress of coursework on mental health during these unprecedented times can cause students to under-perform and these results will not be reflective of their true potential. A change in the grading basis will help alleviate some of the burden and will allow students to progress academically.

The diversity in CUNY's student population means that there will be students whose families are severely affected by COVID-19. Additionally, many of the students will not be able to go back home and will have to resort to isolation. The current situation also means that students may have a multitude of personal difficulties: lack of reliable internet, financial burdens, home responsibilities, relocation and health issues. This will all negatively affect the well-being of a student and will be reflected on their academic work.

The transition to online learning will mean difficulty for a lot of students to adapt to a learning framework that they may have not experienced. The instructors will also face a learning curve to teach on this type of platform. Similarly, a lot of the courses are not suited for the online format which adds to the difficulty in teaching/learning the material. As a result, technical difficulties, mistakes and miscommunications are bound to occur. A portion of the students will find it hard to be able to intake the same level of knowledge as they would in-person. Students will not all be on equal footing as their success in the coursework will depend on their comfort with the platform, level of resources and current personal situation.

We reiterate that this emergency grading policy should be purely optional for all students. The students who wish to keep their criteria from A-F should still maintain the option to retain their grades. CUNY needs to consider changing the grading policy to counteract the pitfalls of the transition to an online coursework.

We appreciate CUNY's swift and thoughtful response to the pandemic up until this point and hope that it will continue to take action to support the well-being of its students.