Change to Credit/No Credit Grading for Marshall Students

This petition made change with 2,630 supporters!

As online classes begin again this week for Marshall University students, there is a growing amount of concern within the student body. Due to the confusion, stress, and overall unpreparedness for a complete transition to online courses, students are concerned about finding it harder to excel in their online courses than they did while attending face-to-face instruction. Students at Marshall recognize and are grateful for the University's swift action to prioritize our health. However, many of us believe that the next step in prioritizing students' needs is to shift to credit/no credit or pass/fail grading for the Spring 2020 semester.

Critical reasons to adapt are as follows:

- It will reduce stress that the student body is already facing from the anxiety and distress of rapidly packing, trying to purchase plane tickets to go home, and for some, trying to find a way to transport their belongings or store them until the fall. Additionally, some of our students are returning to areas with multiple confirmed COVID-19 cases, or may even be returning to areas that are on total lockdown. These students now have to face even more stress knowing that they and their community are at a high risk for contraction of a wildly contagious and even fatal disease. 

-Online courses, although an understandable "next-best" option, are unfortunately not an adequate substitute for in-person instruction. While some students may adjust fine to these new learning conditions, many will undoubtedly underperform. Many students will have trouble focusing on and truly mastering new material. This is upsetting, not only for professors who have worked hard both in preparing their unique course material and in adjusting to the rapid and unanticipated switch to online delivery, but also to the students, who are interested in the genuine process of learning in their chosen subjects and who have worked to maintain good grades and good relationships with their instructors.

-Students now also have to worry about employment, and with many bars, restaurants, and additional businesses that are typically inclined to hire college students closing for an unknowable amount of time, students may begin to struggle financially. Students eligible for work studies are, in many cases, no longer receiving that source of income, and most part-time jobs (if a student is even able to find one at this time) are likely not going to be as student-oriented as a work study position is. Some students across the nation have even reported rejection after application due to their taxing ongoing online courseload.

-For many students, a barrage of personal difficulties may arise; from time zone differences; unstable or otherwise challenging home environments; emphasis on personal, physical, emotional, and mental health needs; to having to care for loved ones. If a loved one becomes sick, how can a student be expected to continue with and focus on their coursework? And, heaven forbid, if the worst should happen, how can a student be expected to manage their grief in the midst of all these circumstances, especially without steady or even any access to many services and stabilizers they may have come to rely on, such as the mental health services offered by the university or even the physical presence of dear friends and family members? 

      We are not the only student body being negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of today, March 31st, 2020, well known colleges and universities such as Duke, MIT, Vanderbilt, Smith College, and University of Florida have all shifted to pass/fail or satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading for the semester. Similarly, students at many other institutions of higher education, such as the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown College are petitioning for the same treatment. 

    We do not believe in pointing out problems without offering solutions. Duke, while making all of their classes Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory, are allowing students to elect to still receive letter grades if they so desire. In Duke's model, a Satisfactory grade is the equivalent of a C- or higher, and will count towards all graduation and major requirements. Neither an Unsatisfactory or Satisfactory grade will affect a student's GPA. 

    This is not the student body looking to make our classes easier; this is the student body asking the University to abandon pretensions of normalcy to sufficiently adapt to the wildly uncertain (and stressful) times and circumstances we are facing. Phoebe Woonprasert, the author of the Georgetown petition, said it best, "Making the semester 'lower stakes' wouldn’t discourage students from doing well in their classes, but rather allow some leeway for those put in tough academic situations."

We are asking the University now for compassion and understanding, as well as its faith in our collective future together. These are harrowing times for many, if not all of us, but we will make it through, as long as we are committed to helping each other.

     We, the students and friends of Marshall University, hope that you will take all of this into consideration for the amelioration of our student body in these unprecedented and challenging days. Thank you, and #GoHerd.

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