Pass/Fail Grading Option at Florida Tech

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On March 12th, 2020 President McCay announced that all Florida Tech classes will move from face-to-face instruction and proceed with virtual instruction.  This was a big change no one was prepared for.

The WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic, President Trump declared a National Emergency, and Governor DeSantis declared a State of Emergency over Florida.  Due to the severity of this pandemic, it is likely that the students' academic performance will be greatly affected.   With all the chaos and uncertainty of this pandemic, Florida Tech should provide more options for their students.  One option Florida Tech should consider is allowing students to decide if they want to move to a Pass/Fail grading system for the 2020 Spring Semester.  Students would be able to have to option to have a P/F or letter grade system.  Reasons why Florida Tech should provide this option:

1. Improve mental health.  Students were not prepared for such dramatic changes in their spring semester.  Many students had to pack up and travel back home, in fear they could contract COVID-19.  Also, it is known that Florida Tech is one of the most diverse campuses in the US; many of the international students were not able to return home with all the travel bans.  Additionally, a large proportion of students have/need a job and not having a source of income is a greats stress inducer.  With all the fear around COVID-19 and the logistical problems that it has created, we believe giving the option for a P/F grading system will alleviate the stress around this unfortunate situation.

2. Personal difficulties such as changes in time zones, unattainable or unstable internet access, unfavorable conditions at home. 

3. If a family member falls ill, it would be difficult for a student to focus on academics and Florida Tech should be prioritizing the health and well-being of our community. 

4.  Many students need face-to-face instruction to successfully understand academic material.  Not every student can move from face-to-face instruction to virtual instruction and still have the same learning curve.  Resources such as the library, ASC, MAC and CRC will not be as easily accessible.  Also, a large part of our learning experience is helping our fellow classmates and learning from them as well.  

A pass/fail grading system would operate on conditions that credits would count towards applicable curricular, major, continuation, and graduation requirements. A passing grade would not count towards a student's GPA but will count towards earned semester credit.  A note can be added onto academic transcripts that indicate the major disruption this pandemic has caused to the academic experience. A pass/fail grading system would be an option, students can decide to keep a letter grading system.

Many notable universities moved to a pass/fail system such as Duke, Vanderbilt, and IVY's such as Harvard, Yale and Penn.  Comparable tech schools such as MIT, Virginia Tech, Cal Tech and Rochester Institute of Technology have switched to this mode of grading as well.  Florida Tech should look to these schools as examples.

Our Florida Tech administration has done a great job keeping the student body updated and safe during this troubled time.  The work of the administration and faculty is not going unnoticed and is greatly appreciated.  Allowing the students to decide for a pass/fail grading system will not discourage students from doing coursework but would rather encourage students with these problems to finish coursework successfully.