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The exterior of Cutler Hall, located on College Green, which houses the offices of the president, the provost and other senior administrative officers. (Kaitlin Owens / File)

Petition to change grading to pass/fail gets student attention

A petition to temporarily change Ohio University’s grading system to pass/fail while in-person instruction has been suspended has been circulating among students.

The petition, created by Payton Wilks, has nearly 4,000 of its 5,000-signature goal. Wilks did not respond to a request for comment, but the petition describes why a pass/fail grading system would be beneficial.

“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,” according to the petition. 

The petition also addresses various stressors, personal difficulties and financial factors students may experience as a result of having to return to their hometown. It also cited universities that have already transitioned to a pass/fail system, including MIT, or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Kent State University has switched to an optional pass/fail grading system for this Spring Semester.

“Students who have left Athens, but have returned to states with a high number of COVID-19 cases, such as Washington or New York, are likely still experiencing stress, knowing that their community is at risk,” the petition read.

It also focuses on how a student’s grades would be affected should a family member contract COVID-19.

“We should be prioritizing the health and status of our community over grades at this moment,” the petition said.

OU administration is “working together to understand and evaluate the implications of additional pass/fail options for our students as they complete spring semester and how such decisions may impact successful completion of  academic programs and degrees,” Elizabeth Sayrs, executive vice president and provost, said in an email.

Sayrs said in an email that the university’s first goal is safety as they continue to uphold academics. She also said university administration has been in conversation with faculty leaders and watching changes made at other institutions. 

“We are living through a time of unprecedented change and uncertainty, which is understandably creating additional stress and anxiety for our students,” she said in the email. “The last several days have required focus and quick action of University leadership to address the rapidly changing situations facing our university communities, state and nation.”

Sayrs said more information about this decision will be made available within the next week. 

Lydia Ramlo, Student Senate president, said she has also been working with faculty members to address pass/fail concerns among students. 

“We have lots of different students emailing the senate account talking about pass/fail courses,” Ramlo said. “I’m aware of the petition that has gone around and of different articles of different universities like MIT going towards the pass/fail option.”

Ramlo said she has reached out to OU President Duane Nellis and Sayrs.


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