Thursday, September 16, 2021

Big Ten student body presidents sign letter in support of pass/fail grading

November 3, 2020
<p>Photo courtesy of Abii-Tah Bih.</p>

Photo courtesy of Abii-Tah Bih.

A petition titled "MSU FALL 2020 SEMESTER BE PASS/FAIL" has more than 4,000 signatures as of Nov. 3.

Last week, the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, passed a resolution to support calls for the university to implement a Satisfactory/Non-Satisfactory grading system.

Today, taking another step, the Association of Big Ten Students released a statement that calls on their universities' administrations to offer the grading policy for the Fall 2020 semester.

The letter, released on Nov. 2, 2020, reads "As of the time of this statement's release, hundreds of thousands of students within the Big Ten Conference are crushed beneath the persistent weight of the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, a national social justice movement, and a particularly polarizing election season among the plethora of other stressors that have plagued 2020. We are academically, mentally, financially, and physically fatigued by circumstances that have escaped our control since going remote in the Spring semester of 2020. As Big Ten Student Body representatives of over 500,000 students, we are collectively calling on our institutions to implement a comprehensive P/F or S/NS policy for the Fall 2020 semester that prioritizes the needs of students at each of our respective institutions."

The statement is signed by every student body president within the Big Ten except for Indiana University.

ASMSU president Abii-Tah Bih had the original idea and drafted the letter, which was then edited and amended by other student government presidents from across the Big Ten. She said that the letter addresses something that students nationwide have been asking for and thinks that it's time for administrators to listen and respond.

"I think the hope of that letter, and just my hope, is that all the Big Ten administrations would essentially take it seriously and take measures to implement pass/fail or satisfactory/not satisfactory at all their universities," Bih said. "That was the one thought that drove the letter, that was the one action item that we asked for."

She also addressed the No Record-COVID policy recently announced for MSU students.

"It does not benefit every student on campus and it does not even allow you to keep your credits," Bih said. "Students have complained and complained, and have written petitions. ASMSU has passed legislation and has been advocating for this since the summer semester, and nothing has been done."

The letter, addressed to the Administrations of all Big Ten Universities and the Big Ten Academic Alliance, cites concerns of equity, mental health and emotional wellness. A cited survey of MSU students was included that 28.3% of surveyed students felt sad, stressed or anxious to the point that it impacts learning ability. Another survey from the University of Minnesota points out that 68% of their students felt fear for their academic success due to online classes.

An included Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey from Aug. 14 said that over a quarter of 18- to 24-year-old respondents had seriously considered committing suicide within the prior month.

In an email, MSU Deputy Spokesperson said that university administration appreciates student activism and engagement, but that they have no plans to change their grading system.

"Our goal in adopting No Record-COVID is to provide students with pathways to continue their education, so that when this pandemic finally ends they are not so badly weighed down by very low grades that they are unable to persist and graduate," Olsen said. "We are not changing this grading option at this time."

The letter goes on to say, "Our universities have repeatedly mentioned the abnormality of this semester as well as the stressors facing students, yet have failed to take action to reduce these stressors."

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 and can be reached at 800-273-8255. Michigan's mental health resources are also available online.

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