Pass/Fail grading option at Yeshiva University

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On March 11, 2020, Yeshiva University officially announced that due to the rapid and global spread of COVID-19, they would shift away from in-class room learning and transition into virtual lessons beginning on Monday, March 16th. In President R Berman’s email, which outlined this plan, it was stated that the virtual class structure would continue until the conclusion of Passover (April 20th). Once YU reaches this point, they plan to reassess whether virtual classes will continue until the end of the semester. 

We, as students, recognize how difficult a decision to move to online instruction is and thank the University for putting our safety above all else. Given that COVID-19 has forced all classes to be conducted online via Zoom, we believe that the appropriate action that the University should take is to make all classes have the option of being pass/fail and yet still count for their respective major/minor/concentration requirements.

Thus far, universities such as MIT, Cornell, Smith College, Georgetown, and several others have announced that they will be transitioning to their alternate grading policy, which is a structure of pass/fail grading in the event of significant disruption. As a University that strives for a similar rigor to these universities, we request that YU put a similar policy in place for the student body. 

Transitioning to pass/fail grading would help reduce student stress to counteract the additional stress caused by COVID-19. Additionally, there are many personal difficulties that people may have to deal with: time zones, financially difficult times, access to Internet, access to quiet study spaces, and unexpected home responsibilities (jobs, taking care of family members). Moreover, many students also face the difficulty of a time zone change restricting them from partaking in class and preventing them from speaking to their professors during school hours. Even more so, with the suspension of in-person activities, YU’s stress-coping mechanisms that exist on campus are less available to students and academically, and many students rely on in-person office hours and review sessions for in-depth learning. Hence, creating an opt-in pass/fail option will provide the much needed relief to students in this unexpected turn in the semester. 

In this vein, we would also like to propose the option to maintain letter grading OR pass/fail with pass/failing still going towards the degree requirements. We recognize that some students need letter grades to be eligible for Medical School or Law School or otherwise and would not like to hinder their ability to seek higher education. We would like to request that all pass/fail grades provide an asterisk (*) denoting at the bottom that the grade change was due to COVID-19 which prevented in-person instruction. 

We hope that the University enacts this change to the benefit of the entire student community and allows students to pass/fail courses for credit without any penalty.