Request To Make GMU Fall 2020 Classes Pass/Fail An Option Due to COVID-19

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The following petition, which was created in Spring 2020, was written very eloquently, and perfectly highlights the purpose of this petition. All credits are due to the author, Hossein Khoshhal! 

"The COVID-19 epidemic has impacted the majority of academic institutions across the country by canceling in-person classes, moving towards a digital platform for lectures and exams. Although this shift is necessary to ensure the safety of students and staff, it puts the students of George Mason University at an educational disadvantage for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, virtual instruction for the duration of the semester would cause a great deal of difficulty for professors and TAs, since many courses which focus on participation will struggle to accurately evaluate student performance for the rest of the semester. It is unfair for both the professors and the students to have to find alternative ways to measure and quantify this part of education.

Additionally, the use of Blackboard and/or Zoom for virtual instruction prevents meetings with professors and TAs in person. While we can still interact with our professors and TAs through phone, email, and video-calling, there are limitations such as a student's time zone and WIFI availability which can make this difficult. Additionally, an inability to physically be on campus poses challenges to students' ability to learn and study. Mason provides multiple resources for students such as libraries, study room access, lab access, computer access, 3D printing stations, etc. The use of virtual instruction would end all of these resources, and negatively impact many students' performances. 

GMU is also a very diverse community with students coming from all parts of the globe. Students living in different parts of the world would have to stay up or wake up at inconvenient times to "attend" virtual classes. For instance, a Mason student living in Korea who has a lecture starting at 1:30pm on campus would have to be up at 2:30am to participate in the class. This is unfair to them as the university emphasized for students to return to their permanent addresses during this period of uncertainty. This will greatly deteriorate the mental health of many of the students who have to continue doing school work online.

It must be noted that many colleges, such as Georgetown University, Northwestern University, Grinnel College, and most recently the University of Virginia, have already enacted a pass/fail option for their students. By following their example and offering a pass/fail opt-in option for classes, George Mason would support many of their students while continuing to take measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This action would not discourage students from doing well in their classes, but rather allow some leeway for those put in tough academic situations. The university has done well in allowing an open campus for those who may have financial need, unsafe home-lives, etc. This is recognized and commended. The next step for George Mason would be to make their courses pass/fail in order to support their students in the wake of these new circumstances" (Hossein Khoshhal).

Considering that both the pandemic and its economic repercussions are still being felt by most of the nation, including us college students, we are still stuck in the same problem. If anything, the long duration of the pandemic has increased stress for everyone, including students! With that being said, as college students of GMU, we hope that the faculty of GMU understands our concerns and supports our success by allowing us to have a Pass/Fail option for Fall 2020!