Dear Fellow Students and Faculty,
I am writing to you because our entire student body faces a pivotal moment in history. This pandemic has endangered our community, prompting CU Boulder to move classes online and close campus. As a result, the education we signed up for is not being provided.
COVID-19 is unprecedented, but it has not killed our academic rights and concern for others. This is why we are starting a school-wide petition for every student to receive at least a passing grade for the 2020 Spring Semester.
In an article with the Washington Post, Jenny Davidson who has taught literature at the University of Columbia for over 20 years, has determined to give A's to all her students for the Spring Semester. Although this situation is unique among universities, her sentiment proves that passing grades for everyone is not too much to ask for.
Davidson states that "Colleges and universities should adopt three central principles to ease stress on students, who are reeling like everybody else: Strip down work expectations to the bare minimum; introduce mandatory pass-fail at the very least (opt-in pass-fail would just put undue pressure on our most driven students, many of whom already suffer from chronic anxiety and depression) and consider giving enrolled students A grades as a default; and work to wrap classes up as quickly as possible in most cases, so students can turn their full attention to other pressing matters."
As Buffs, we can set an example for the rest of the country by showing compassion for our students and the communities they call home. We can directly accomplish this worthy task by eliminating the hardships of a failing grade. This is entirely possible for CU Boulder, as proven by other recognized universities, we just need to ask for it.
Our justification for this request is rooted in the following:
- At the beginning of the semester, many of us signed some form of a syllabus, stipulating classroom and coursework expectations. By going through this process, we agreed to be academically evaluated based on a particular course structure. By moving courses online, the structures have fundamentally changed and are no longer the courses we signed up for. Hence, it is unethical to evaluate students based on previous grading schemes that do not reflect the transition from in-person to online classes.
- Online learning requires more advanced technology than in class-learning does, which means students are incurring greater costs than they planned for at the beginning of the semester. Some of our students simply do not have access to highspeed internet and a reliable computer. In times like these, we need to be considerate of families losing essential income. Asking valued students to pay for computers and routers as protection from a failing grade is not the attitude we should set as a financially diverse school. Instead, we should support our students by allowing them to focus on loved ones and the immense day to day struggles.
- We must stand up for our classmates who struggle with learning disabilities and impaired mental health. Up until this semester, these students have been working since kindergarten to develop comprehension and social skills for in-class learning. In their time at CU Boulder, they have spent hours collaborating with disability services to create a set of accommodations providing them equal access and equal opportunity to education. Yet very few of these preparations or accommodations apply to video conferencing or streaming lectures. We cannot allow these students to be victimized through a grade that says they failed because of their inability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Additionally, a vast number of students are mentally/emotionally struggling with isolation. Depression, anxiety, paranoia, and claustrophobia are direct bi-products of solitary confinement. These are chemical imbalances in the brain that are out of one's control, and if left unaddressed, have serious consequences. If we are a university that takes mental health seriously, then we need to give students time to practice self-care and coping skills. Now more than ever, the mental/emotional health of our community should be prioritized over grades. Failing a student who is struggling to get out of bed every day should not be the standard we set amidst this crisis. Buffs are better than that.
- Professors are the life source of our education. They have become masters in their fields with a sense of drive and creativity we all should strive for. They are our mentors, they are our friends, and they believe in the CU Boulder community. Some are alumni, and some have traveled many miles to work alongside us. Having the ability to talk with them in person and problem solve through face to face interaction is a primary reason for attending a major university like CU Boulder. Without this face to face interaction, the professor and student's ability to effectively communicate is severely compromised, even with software like ZOOM and Canvas. As a result of this social detachment, we are unable to read body language, tone of voice, and subtle facial expressions. Classrooms and lecture halls were constructed to bring students and professors together, not to be left empty upon the invention of online learning. So if the University has operated through human interaction for its entire existence, and has purposefully trained professors to teach in that environment, then how can we expect our professors to teach online classes when they have little to no prior training? If we were already attending an online university, the issue of training and prowess for such a platform would not be an issue. Even though CU Boulder already offers a couple of online classes, we are in no way equipped with the resources and faculty required to combat the rigors of a schoolwide transition. It takes years to build an efficient and reliable online learning platform. To expect professors to effectively grade students on material designed for in-person instruction, but that now exists entirely on a screen, is to say that our professors have superpowers. And although they remain superheroes in our community, we also recognize that they are human and possess limitations like the rest of us. It would be more effective for CU Boulder to permit the distribution of a guaranteed passing grade, relieving our valued professors of unattainable expectations.
It is on these grounds that we respectfully ask CU Boulder to honor our request for guaranteed passing grades. We profoundly encourage all students and professors to keep participating in their classes even if our request is honored. We believe that even more learning will take place when we minimize stress and emphasize compassion. The global community is in an undeniable crisis, and although we are just one university, our actions can make a difference for communities worldwide. This is proven by our numerous international, out of state, and in-state students. If you are in favor of this petition for guaranteed passing grades for CU Boulder's 2020 Spring Semester, then please consider offering your signature.
Everybody is welcome in this endeavor, including professors, faculty, local government, family members, and friends. This petition has no political, religious, or business affiliations. We are not asking for monetary contributions and we will be fully transparent with any communication that takes place. Thank you for your time and valued support! If you have any questions or comments please email email@example.com