Changing Monash's grading policy to reflect the current situation
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On 16th March 2020, faced with the national spread of COVID-19 and general unease amongst staff and students, administration at Monash University decided not to return to in-person classes, labs, assessments, or programs for the remainder of the teaching period of Semester 1 2020 as intimated in the email sent out. As students, we understand how difficult the decision was to make, and we appreciate all the care that was taken in making the decision and transitioning into online coursework.
This large and sudden change, while relieving quite a few students, has left us concerned regarding the emotional and academic consequences of suspending in-person classes and activities. We are reaching out to request that Monash change their grading policy to help alleviate these concerns.
On the 13th of March 2020, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that they would be transitioning to their alternate grading policy, which is a structure of pass/fail grading in the event of significant disruption outlined in Article 2.64 of their rules and regulations manual. The Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, announced on the 16th of March, in response to a student petition that they would be adopting a similar policy. As a university of similar rigor and standard to these universities, we request that Monash put a similar policy in place. We ask that Monash provide students the option to a) continue receiving letter grades for the semester or b) transition to emergency pass/fail grading that would still count towards degree completion, unlike traditional pass/fail grading.
Transitioning to optional pass/fail emergency grading would help reduce student stress to counteract the additional stress caused by COVID-19. Many students' families or hometowns are affected, meaning students may not be able to safely travel home. This applies to all students, but more specifically the ~34% of the student body that is international, the substantial student body from New South Wales, so on and so forth. Additionally, with the suspension of in-person activities Monash's stress-coping mechanisms like O-Fest, student organizations, and other campus programming are less available to students. There are many personal difficulties that people may have to deal with: time zones, financially difficult times, access to the Internet, access to quiet study spaces, and unexpected home responsibilities (jobs, taking care of family members). Academically, many students rely on in-person office hours and consultations for in-depth learning. Additionally, as professors transition their classes online, mistakes and miscommunications are likely to occur that may be difficult for students.
Lastly, we believe that shifting the grading policy to an optional pass/fail emergency structure would align with existing Monash grading policies. New online grading and instruction should not improve or hurt students' GPAs. While online class this semester is unavoidable, we can attempt to counteract the academic downfalls of online classes by changing grading to pass/fail. With the volatility of moving online and changing due dates, assignments, and exams, the online classes will not be as aligned to Monash's teaching standards and academic fairness as in-person classes and therefore should be graded differently.
We believe that emergency pass/fail grading should be purely optional, as some students would be in a position where they would need to improve their GPA's and the circumstances surrounding this semester would greatly hinder their ability to do so.
As we all do our best to carry on with our studies while managing factors outside of our control, we would like for Monash to consider amending their Semester 1, 2020 grading policy to accommodate student needs and ambitions.
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