UWL students create petition for pass/fail grading system for remainder of spring 2020 semester


Screenshot of Charlie Faude’s petition. Retrieved from Change.org.

Julia Balli, Managing Editor

With University of Wisconsin-La Crosse classes being transitioned to an online platform for the remainder of the semester, many students have concerns about if they will transition well. Some students have been proposing to making the remainder of the spring 2020 semester a pass/fail grading system.

The Racquet Press asked UWL Provost Betsy Morgan to explain what the pass/fail grading system would look like, “At UWL the P/F option that currently exists associated for some courses works toward GPA in the following way. If a student gets a ‘P,’ it does not affect their GPA.  If a student gets an ‘F,’ it counts toward the GPA as a 0.00 like any other F.  If a P needs to be interpreted for a particular reason, it is seen as a ‘C’ like a 2.00.”

UWL student Charlie Faude has created a petition on Change.org to have the remainder of spring 2020 classes be graded on a pass/fail system.

“This is a difficult time for every individual at the university, student or staff. While the student body is grateful that we are still able to take classes, the same quality of learning is simply not possible online. Beyond the difficulties of learning online, at this time there are many other factors that will be challenging for students:

1. COVID-19 is a threat to every individual, family, and community. There have been confirmed cases in the La Crosse area, but there are likely far more than are known, as test kits are currently limited. If a student is taking measures to protect their community, or directly take care of a sick family member, that student will have less time and energy to focus on their classes. Under these stressful situations, a hardworking student may not be able to keep up the same quality of work.

2. Many businesses are being closed because of COVID-19, and while some are unaffected, many could be temporarily left without an income. If that stream of income is important to a student or a family, a student may be forced to make a change that would leave their coursework in the backseat.

3. The online coursework is not only new to students, but it is also new to most professors. Teaching under these circumstances will, unfortunately, likely not be the seamless transition we all hope it could be. With the challenges of online learning, a professor is forced to make decisions about how to fairly grade during this unprecedented time of uncertainty. Furthermore, professors will face similar challenges as the students regarding the safety of themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Faude took inspiration from a previous petition revolving around the pass/fail grading system taking place at the University of St. Thomas located in Saint Paul, MN. The petition received over 3,000 signatures and administration ended up changing the grading system to a pass/fail. “I enjoyed how well written their petition was and that I could personally relate to all of the points that were made. I know there are quite a few schools who have implemented similar things for this difficult time, including Harvard, which made their classes completely online nearly two weeks before many other schools began making similar decisions,” Faude said.

“I also understand that having pass/fail grading systems could hurt those students who are planning to pursue graduate degrees because those schools may not accept the credits as regular credits, and that is why I think that the university should make it the students’ decision whether to use the pass/fail grading or to keep their regular grading scale during this difficult time,” said Faude.

The petition is being sent directly to UWL and has over 70 out of the 100 required signatures so far. If you would like to sign Faude’s petition, click here.

UW-Madison has recently changed its grading system to a pass/fail system. One petition made by a UW-Madison student received over 6,000 signatures for a pass/fail grading system for the remainder of the online semester. “Many students do not have the ability to learn online and this is why we are petitioning for UW to change this semester’s grading system to a Pass-Fail system,” said Sydney Stark who made the petition on Change.org. “During this time, students have to focus on their health and an online learning environment only adds an extra amount of stress that is unfair to students.”

On March 26, UW-Madison provost Karl Scholz emailed to students that the university would be transitioning to an optional pass/fail grading system.

“Students can elect a special P/F grade for a qualified course until May 22, eight days after the final grade deadline. Under this new policy, students will receive a grade for any class they take — like all previous semesters — but will also have the option to replace that grade with an alternative COVID-19 P/F grade for classes that allow. It will extend to most courses — undergraduate and graduate — but there will be exceptions, such as when strict program degree requirements are in place or when accreditor rules prohibit it,” according to The Daily Cardinal.

Faude is not the only student to create a petition for switching UWL’s current grading system to a pass/fail system for the remainder of the semester. UWL student Samuel Van Dong has also created a petition for current UWL students to sign on Change.org.

The petition states, “With UWL students dealing with the craziness of being quarantined and unable to go to face-to-face classes anymore it’s only right to have the forced online classes be pass or fail. Many students have been laid off from their jobs and are stressed out about rent and tuition payments and do not have the energy and or time to put in a lot of effort into an online course. Many courses are not designed to be able to fully be understood online as well, [i.e.] biology lab.”

The petition currently has over 400 signatures out of the 500 signatures required. If you would like to sign Van Dong’s petition, click here.

In addition to student’s concerns, Morgan said, “We are aware of the conversations happening around the grading structure at UWL and other UW campuses, especially in light of UW Madison’s announcement yesterday. Generally speaking, Student and Faculty Senate and academic leadership feel that this is a very serious discussion with far-reaching implications and that it is too soon for this discussion given that fully on-line education at UWL has not yet launched.”

“We need time to allow the transition to online learning to happen,” said Morgan. “Faculty Senate, Student Senate and our Executive Policy team will be keeping our eyes on other schools and our ears toward our students’ experiences in our courses as the semester progresses.”