Pass/Fail System for Nova Southeastern for Winter 2020 Semester

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Nova Southeastern University announced on March 12th, 2020 that all in-person classes would be moved online by Monday, March 23rd until at least April 17th. Students were also expected to leave their dorms/residences and go back home. Although it was reported that six students tested positive for COVID-19, the university has not announced whether students should be expected to come back to campus following April 17th. Due to unclear direction, many students completely moved out of their campus residence. 

Due to the uncertainty of this situation and the possible, unsafe environments of some students' homes, it is likely that their academic performance will be deeply affected. NSU students understand and thank the university for taking our health into consideration and providing online instruction; however, we believe that the next step is to allow classes to be pass/fail. Reasons to adjust are listed below: 

- Help reduce the stress that many students are already experiencing from sudden travel, such as the anxiety and distress that students may have felt while trying to purchase plane tickets and leave with a two days notice. Students who have left Florida but have returned to states with a high number of COVID-19 cases, such as California or New York, are likely still experiencing stress, knowing that their community is at risk.

- Personal difficulties: time zones, internet access and/or connection, possibly unstable homes, having to take care of family members. Unexpected barriers that low-income students may experience at home. These points are expanded below:

1. Time zone difference will affect a student's ability to operate and/or even attend class. Some students had 8 AM classes; if they had to go to the West Coast, that class would now be at 5 AM. For international students, classes could be held in the middle of the night. Inconvenient timing of classes will undoubtedly affect their academic performance.

2. If a family member becomes sick, how will a student focus on their studies? We should be prioritizing the health and status of our community over grades at this moment.

3. With the many businesses closing down (bars and restaurants), student-workers are not making money; what if this was a source of income that they or their family needed desperately? 

- For those out-of-state students that have stayed on campus, many are staying because it is too expensive to fly back and/or they are concerned about the health and safety of their family. A lot of these students stuck on campus may also be experiencing loneliness.

- Online instruction is incomparable to the experience and learning that one may have in the class and during in-person lectures; although many students may transition seamlessly to learning online, there will be an indisputable part of our student body that will face difficulties in focusing and/or truly understanding class material.

In some form, learning will be compromised and distributing a letter grade will not be an accurate depiction of class performance anyways. Someone who got an A this semester in a science class, for example, had a very different experience that someone who got an A last semester (and had to complete all of the laboratory experiments, reports, and practicals). 

In general, this pandemic is having an overall negative effect on the esteem and mental health of our student body. Other universities, such MIT, Georgetown, and Carnegie Mellon have announced that they would be changing their grading policy to pass/fail as a result of COVID-19 being a significant disruption. Other universities have followed suit, such as Smith College. NSU is not the only academic institution calling for this transition; Columbia and the University of Florida, along with many others, are also petitioning for pass/fail classes as a result of the transition to online classes. 

For the reasons listed above, we ask that NSU allows for the transition from letter grade to pass/fail. We recognize that letter grades are used to determine scholarship eligibility, so another option that we would propose is that transcripts with letter grades also have an asterisk (*), or some footnote, that denotes this grade was received during a major interruption to in-person instruction, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that NSU enacts this change for the betterment of the student community in these trying and stressful times.