Thursday, November 30, 2023

Students create petition to reinstate pass/fail grading for 2021-22

December 10, 2021
Michigan State students, employees and residents of the Greater Lansing area alike can be seen walking through campus on nice days - not just to commute to class or their offices, but often times to admire campus itself.
Michigan State students, employees and residents of the Greater Lansing area alike can be seen walking through campus on nice days - not just to commute to class or their offices, but often times to admire campus itself. —
Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

With the first in-person semester since spring 2020 coming to an end, students are petitioning MSU to reinstate the Satisfactory/Not Satisfactory, S/NS, grading option for the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters, as many are still feeling the lasting effects of COVID-19.

As of Friday, the petition has received more than 5,900 signatures, since it was posted on Dec. 8.

The creator and writer of the petition is Nikunj Agarwal, an environmental economics and management senior and the International Students Association president. 

Agarwal wrote: “The present remains as a time of great stress, as students adjust once again to being in the classroom—though sometimes, that experience may feel more like ‘half-in, half-out,’ as several MSU classes remain online, and some students struggle, going back and forth between the different modalities. ... It is an unprecedented time for students and teachers alike. Providing the S/NS option for the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 terms would be the humane thing to do. Thus, in conclusion, we request you that you considered reinstating the S/NS option.”

More than 100 students have commented on the petition page explaining why they are in favor of reintroducing S/NS grading. 

“Getting to go through (the comments) is really important to see how it hasn’t been a typical pre-pandemic semester,” Agarwal said. “The main motivation to create this was to get an understanding about the general student population.”

Political theory and constitutional democracy sophomore Joshua Dorcely is one of the students who signed the petition. 

“When the University made a promise for a more typical fall semester, students were expecting as much,” Dorcely said in a statement. “In the heat of the semester, student voices weren’t taken into account. And now that students understand they can use a helping hand, why wouldn’t they do so.”

Shaurya Pandya is a social relations and policy junior and an ASMSU student representative who helped introduce a bill that advocates for the petition. 

“Really what the shape of this argument is, is one, there is now considerable data that shows students really do want a levied system,” Pandya said.

Pandya said there is conversation about using this grading format at other schools, and is important to analyze because Michigan state universities, specifically Wayne State University, share many of the same COVID-19 policies. 

“If these conversations start happening at one school, they’re gonna have to start happening again at the next school,” Pandya said.

Philosophy junior and ASMSU general assembly representative for the College of Arts and Letters Carl Austin Miller Grondin, helped introduce the bill at the ASMSU GA meeting on Dec. 9

“We’re all meant to believe we’re supposed to be back to normal as if we weren’t on an 18-month hiatus from basic life,” Grondin said. “The reason why I’m seconding this bill is because, not just my constituents, but every student on campus is going through the same thing, we are all stressed out right now.”

Grondin mentioned there is an unusual number of new students on campus this semester, which has added to the difficulties.

Freshmen are on campus for the first time and finishing their first semester of college, sophomores are on campus for the first time as well, after spending their freshman year online and juniors are back on campus for the first time since their freshman year.

“There's so many underlying factors that have come out this year that it seems, almost in a sense, inhumane to put students through this without a little bit of give back,” Grondin said.

Associate Professor and Associate Director of the First-Year Writing Program Joyce Meier proposed implementing S/NS grading as an option, and advised Agarwal to take it to other student groups on campus, including the University Committee on Undergraduate Education, or UCUE.

“I think this semester has been extraordinarily difficult for both teachers and students, but especially, I see it in my students,” Meier said. “I think that they’ve had 18 months of weird classes, and I really think that some of them have gotten used to being online, and so they’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to be in a classroom again—not that it’s their fault either.”

Bill discussing petition introduced to ASMSU

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At the meeting on Dec. 9, Agarwal introduced the bill to members of ASMSU, and said it had a lot of support at the general assembly. 

Despite the support from the GA, only a subset of UCUE members were in favor of it, and therefore, no formal recommendation was made. 

“The data showed 61 members of collective responses favored considered reinstating S/NS, but notably 39 did not favor,” Agarwal said. 

At the meeting, vice president for academic affairs Aaron Iturralde announced he received an email from the Office of the Provost that morning stating that MSU would not be offering S/NS during the fall 2021 semester; however, the Office of the Provost is interested in working to see if it can be implemented for spring 2022.

The next steps

There is no conversations of the S/NS grading scale being reinstated at this point, Agarwal said.

“It looks like there is a need for conversation with all of the UCUE members, and they’re going to have the conversation, starting next semester,” Agarwal said. 

As of right now, Agarwal said there is no set plan for the petition’s next steps. 

“We are still deciding how we want to move forward with it,” Agarwal said.


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