Pass/Fail Grading Option at the University of Florida
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The University of Florida announced on March 11th, 2020, all in-person classes would be moved online by Monday, March 16th until at least March 30th. Students were expected (not required) to leave their dorms/residences on and off-campus and go back home. Although an Alachua County Resident has tested positive for COVID-19, the university has not announced whether students should be expected to come back to the UF campus following March 30th.
Update: As of March 18th, 2020, after 4 UF students tested positive for Coronavirus, all UF classes will remain online for the remainder of the semester.
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. UF's 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 class the option for pass/fail or a generous curve. 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 or train tickets, checking in luggage, the act of packing to go home, etc.. 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 7 AM classes; if they had to go to the West Coast, that class would now be a 4 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 in Gainesville, many are staying because it is too expensive to fly back and/or they are concerned about the health and safety of their family.
- 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 general, this pandemic is having an overall negative effect on the esteem and mental health of our student body. Other universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have announced that they would be changing their grading policy to pass/fail as a result of COVID-19 being a significant disruption (outline in Article 2.64 of their rules and regulations manual). Other universities have followed suit, such as Smith College. UF is not the only academic institution calling for this transition; Columbia and Barnard College are also petitioning for pass/fail as a result of the transition to online classes.
For the reasons listed above, we ask that the University of Florida gives us the option to transitions 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. Even a generous curve from professors would alleviate stress from UF students. We hope that the University of Florida enacts this change for the betterment of the student community in these trying and stressful times.
Personal disclaimer: I'm doing well in my classes, all of my grades are currently at an A. However, I'm still being emotionally affected by this situation (Although I am an in-state-student, most of my family lives in Spain. Unfortunately due to the COVID-19 situation there, I will not be going to my home country because of my family's health) and believe that some indication on our transcripts that these grades were received during the COVID-19 pandemic is important and necessary. For the sake of our entire student body, the school should consider transitioning into pass/fail.
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