The Florida Board of Governors’ decision to switch to online classes for the rest of the spring semester has sparked the creation of two petitions that have drawn a variety of responses from students on social media.
The petitions have been posted to a couple of USF Facebook pages. They seek to change grading policies for this semester due to the possible effects of the online transition on students’ learning experiences.
USF is aware of the demands students are making and university officials have been discussing the matter.
“Under the unique circumstances, USF is giving consideration to a pass/fail model for this semester,” university spokesman Adam Freeman said in an email to The Oracle on Monday. “USF is discussing the concept with the Board of Governors and other state universities, but no changes have been announced at this time.”
Freeman said the university may be able to provide an update on the situation next week.
The petitions are electronic and hosted on a website called Change.org, where students may also sign electronically.
One of the petitions, created by second-year biomedical sciences major Lea Baddoura, asks for students to support the pass/fail model.
“The main purpose of the petition is to get the university’s attention that there are many students at the school who are really struggling because of this transition to remote instruction, and we would appreciate if they implemented some form of system, like the pass/fail option, that accounts for any decrease in grade averages since so many people rely on their grades to move forward with their careers,” said Baddoura in an interview with The Oracle.
If students could choose to have their courses graded on a pass/fail system, it would suspend letter grades on their transcript and instead qualify their performance in the course as a “pass” or “fail.”
Some students said they don’t support the implementation of this system because it will negatively affect those who are applying to graduate school.
“Pass/fail isn’t good because graduate schools don’t like that, and I don’t want to retake classes from this semester so I have a conclusive GPA for graduate school applications,” said sophomore Ellen Frahm.
For others, the pass/fail system could disqualify student work, as having pass/fail doesn’t alter GPA value.
“It’s not fair to students who have been trying their best to get good grades and then have that taken away from them using a mandatory pass/fail,” said junior Katie Poviones.
Students have emphasized that if a pass/fail system was made available, it should be optional. That way, students who face hardships in the transition to online learning for the semester will have the option to take pass/fail instead of a letter grade on their transcript. Opting in to the pass/fail qualification would also not affect their current GPA.
“I think the option to have a pass/fail grading system is necessary,” said senior Ysabella Canto. “I understand that some students are against it because they ‘work hard for their grades,’ but that isn’t the issue. We all work hard for our grades. However, COVID-19 is causing a lot of students hardship beyond what any of us have dealt with before.”
Baddoura shares the same sentiment regarding the creation of her petition.
“I think a pass/fail option matters for students because there are so many people right now who are dealing with things way larger than school.”
The other petition, created by USF student Desiree Daniel, is asking USF to give all students a 4.0 GPA for the spring semester.
Daniel said he volunteered to create the petition after discussion among USF students about the possibility of a pass/fail option being offered.
“The purpose of this petition was to be able to put another option on the table for USF administration in this time of crisis,” said Daniel. “Institutions are currently in limbo, because the leadership is inexperienced in this type of situation.”
For Daniel, the 4.0 passing option satisfies issues that many see with the pass/fail option. Students who are going to graduate school or medical school after USF will have a GPA for prospective schools to consider.
Students who disagree with the implementation of the grade change also disagree for similar reasons as those against the pass/fail implementation in terms of grade value.
“The 4.0 is absolutely ridiculous and should never be even considered,” said first-year student Michael Chase.
Another first-year student, Saad Aftab, sees both sides to the 4.0 petition.
“It’d be quite beneficial in my opinion, as this is quite a stressful time as it is,” said Aftab, ”but it would take away the feeling of accomplishment and would be unfair on those who have worked hard throughout the semester for good grades over those who didn’t do assignments or homework.”
Another response to the petitions is to not support either of them. Some students say neither of the proposals should be implemented, regardless of support.
“At this point, changing up the grading policies would add even more complication to an already complicated situation,” said junior Laina Strickland.
Instead, students are hoping that USF faculty shows leniency with their grading and coursework.
“I just think that professors should reconsider their grading scale so that we aren’t struggling to get the same grade online that we would be expected to get in person,” said another junior, Stephanie Peak.
First-year student Jelena Milosavljević shared similar sentiments.
“I’d rather have a larger curve on grades rather than a whole new system. I’m a person that doesn’t do well with online classes and this semester has gone from two online classes to five for me.”
The 4.0 petition currently has over 2,600 signatures with a goal of 5,000, and the pass/fail petition has over 6,500 signatures with a goal of 7,500, according to their Change.org pages.
“A lot of people started signing the petition not for themselves, but for others, and that made me very proud of USF,” said Baddoura. “It showed me how we, as a student body, fight for each other and what is right.”