Change VLS grading to Pass/Fail amidst COVID-19

Change VLS grading to Pass/Fail amidst COVID-19

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Law students at Vermont Law School started this petition to Vermont Law School

To: The COVID-19 Task Force and Registrar’s Office of Vermont Law School
Re: Passage in the midst of remote learning
 
On March 17, 2020 Vermont Law School announced its physical campus would be closed for the remainder of the spring semester and classes would be conducted entirely online.
 
First, we the student body we would like to extend our gratitude for your quick response and thoughtfulness regarding our overall well-being and safety. We understand the decision to close campus was not made lightly and appreciate all of the effort that professors, administration, and the IT Department has done to transition to online coursework amid this pandemic. However, in the wake of COVID-19 and the sudden changes brought by it, a large majority of the students have in turn been left to face large amounts of emotional stress and anxiety regarding their academics and grades. While we appreciate that the Vermont Law School community is making itself available to help students with this transition and try to maintain business as usual, many students are extremely stressed and overwhelmed. VLS prides itself in promoting and supporting student mental health. As such, there must be an acknowledgement of the legitimate toll that these unprecedented times have already caused, and will likely continue to cause, on students’ ability to perform academically—not fully reflecting our actual potential or capabilities. A change in the grading policy during these difficult times will help alleviate some of the emotional and stressful burdens our students face while still allowing us not to fall behind in earning our degrees on time.
 
Second, we believe that a change must be made in the grading policy currently used at Vermont Law School. The proposal that we suggest is in line with what other law schools, such as Harvard and Cornell, have already implemented to support its students, and other schools are continuing to follow suit. Vermont Law School must implement a policy that allows its students to remain competitive when applying for employment. Thus, our proposal is that the school transition onto an emergency pass/fail grading policy that still counts towards degree completion.
 
Vermont Law School also prides itself on the diversity of our student population. However, with that comes students whose families and hometowns are severely affected during this pandemic or are not conducive to studying. This creates additional hardships for students in their attempt to continue classes as normal. The Law School has closed its physical campus, which has taken away places for students to study. Coffee shops, public libraries, and other spaces generally used as an alternative to campus have closed their doors all across the country.
 
Some students are facing hurdles to successful completion of the semester including unreliable internet, financial burdens, home responsibilities, relocation, and health issues. These issues will only further hinder students’ ability to fully learn given that online learning will already be a challenge. We specifically chose to attend law school under the residential framework for a reason, the American Bar Association sets residency requirements for law school education for a reason. Lastly, a lot of the courses offered this semester are not very well suited for online teaching, which makes trying to learn the material online even more difficult. As a result, technical difficulties, mistakes and miscommunication are bound to occur more frequently than before, taking away from the valuable learning time and efforts. Thus, the courses offered will not be aligned with the standard the Vermont Law School prides itself on and must therefore be graded differently to the reflect the current situation. We emphasize that the change in grading will be for be benefit of the majority of students.
 
Thank you again for all you have done thus far for the students of Vermont Law School. We hope that you will take this step to protect the mental health and well-being of your students in the midst of this cataclysmic time in our global history.
 
 
Below is a list of the law schools that have adopted this measure:
 
Berkeley Law
Stanford Law
Harvard (optional P/F)
University of Michigan Law School (Optional P/F, student choice post grade)
Cornell Law
 
Other schools who are awaiting committee evaluation:
 
Washington University in St. Louis Law
Duke Law
Wake Forest law
University of Pennsylvania Law
Texas Law
 
 

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