Pass/Fail Grading Option at Florida Polytechnic University

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Florida Polytechnic University announced on March 17th, 2020 along with a release from the State University System that remote-learning initiatives would continue for the rest of the semester. Students were expected to go back home to continue classes through remote learning when the initial announcement to switch over to online classes was announced. 

Since the announcement of the current situation was sudden, coupled with the possibility of the lack of materials for the accommodation of online classes within students’ homes, it is likely that their academic performance will be deeply affected. Florida Polytechnic University students know and understand that the administration and faculty are taking our health into consideration with providing online instruction and thank them for putting our safety first. However, we believe that the next step for these difficult times would be to allow the option for pass/fail or a generous curve, as various universities such as UC Berkeley, FSU, Harvard, USF, and Cornell have already shifted to compensate for the change. The reasons to adjust to the pass/fail system are listed below:

-Time zone differences which can affect a student’s ability to attend class in which late night or early morning classes can be affected by the different time zones. The inconvenient timing of classes will affect academic performance.

-If a student has family members that have become sick it will become difficult for them to focus on their studies since we should be prioritizing the health of loved one over our grades right now.

-Many businesses have closed down or are barely operating which has left students without a source of income as well as student workers who are currently not able to work. This has caused increased stress especially if that income was needed by themselves or their family.

-Many students do not have access to all the resources that the university would usually be able to provide such as internet access or a computer at home. Webcams have also been a problem now that proctored exams have started but luckily the university is working with students to make sure they can acquire a webcam. 

-Online learning does not compare to in-person lectures that we would usually have on campus. Some students may be able to transition easily to online classes but the majority of students will have a difficult  time transitioning to online learning as well as being able to understand the course material or being able to focus on learning while at home. 

-Due to Florida Polytechnic University being a STEM university the courses are rigorous and transitioning to online lecture will be an obstacle for a large part of our student body. Students who have never taken an online class will have a higher difficulty learning than compared to in person lectures. Additionally the classes offered are usually accompanied with a lab; online learning does not give us access to the resources that we have at the labs on campus. Therefore our ability to best learn and understand lab concepts is hindered.

-COVID-19 is having a negative effect on mental health and on the focus of the student body. With many students’ homes being located in some of the areas that are more negatively affected in the US. Other universities have already announced that they would change their grading policy to pass/fail due to COVID-19. UF, FSU, USF, and many others are already transitioning. 

Disclaimer: To avoid confusion, the pass/fail petition isn’t asking for the entirety of the student body to switch to pass/fail. It’s asking for students to be given the option to choose if they, independently, would like their courses to be pass/fail. This petition is meant to bring the student body together and have everyone fight to help each other especially for those who are having a difficult time right now.

Personal disclaimer: My family lives in Broward County which is one of the largest hotspots of COVID-19 in Florida. The majority of my relatives live in Ecuador which is also being affected by COVID-19 and has restricted travel. I am personally worried for the health of my family and loved ones back home. I will also be moving back home this weekend. I believe that some indication on our transcripts that the grades received for this semester are during the COVID-19 pandemic is necessary and would benefit the student body.