Penn State switched to pass/fail grading due to COVID-19, Oakland should too

Penn State University’s senate passed a resolution stating all spring 2020 classes will be graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory scale rather than 4.0 due to the switch to online learning, and it’s worth Oakland University’s consideration to follow suit.

With the COVID-19 virus forcing students and faculty to switch to remote learning, it’s becoming clearer that most prefer to take classes in person for a reason — many are struggling with the lack of structure that is inherent with online learning and facing challenges with technology, teaching styles and overall class experiences.

A petition has been floating around to convince administration to allow this semester to be pass/fail, and it already has nearly 3,000 signatures after just a few days. It’s clear that students need some extra support during this difficult time.

With those who are taking classes in programs such as performance arts, modern languages or English, all of which heavily rely on face-to-face experiences and discussions, the switch to online learning does not come easy. Those who need consistent lectures and question-and-answer sessions to pass their exams will struggle. Even for those who are taking mostly hybrid classes that are conducive to the switch like myself, the online format does not suit my learning style, and I already feel myself falling behind because of it.

I am in no means questioning the university’s decision to make the switch, as it has become very obvious it was necessary, but I do think it is time to fully acknowledge the facts of the situation — students are not set up for success this semester.

It should not be on the individual professors to decide to give students leniency on this matter because there will be a lack of consistency, which is unfair to students. Some professors have decided to allow students to take their grade as-is for the semester and allow it to carry them through exams. Some have extended due dates and allowed for flexibility. Some have not made any changes to their courses at all.

It would be best for the students and faculty to have a consistent stance on this semester’s grading, one that is forgiving to the circumstances, which are out of our control. We never planned for a global pandemic to hit us, and we honestly were not prepared.

If the first week of remote learning has been any insight to the future of the semester, I will be in trouble, and I know I’m not the only one. Grade point averages (GPAs) not only affect grad school and job applications, but most importantly in my situation, my scholarship here at OU. If I do not do well this semester because of the remote learning situation, I will lose my scholarship and my ability to attend this institution.

I have worked for the past six years for the ability to get and maintain a scholarship to a university, and it’s something I rely on to be able to afford to go here. If I lose it because of COVID-19, I will be devastated. I know I’m not the only one.

This university has always put their students first, and it’s time they consider the long-term effects of this situation. Whether it’s pass/fail grading, a GPA multiplier, extra credit opportunity or grade forgiveness, something needs to be done to help student success. Penn State saw that, and I can only hope OU will too.