Hundreds of GMU students petition for pass-fail grading system

Hundreds of students at one Virginia university are asking for their grading system to change this fall.

With classes moving online this semester, George Mason University students have been feeling the impact of the pandemic — and they want a change.

Almost 1,500 students at the Fairfax university have signed a Change.org petition over the last few days asking for grading to be switched from letters to pass/fail.

They say virtual instruction just isn’t the same.

Some students posted that their grades were submitted incorrectly in online systems, and that it’s more difficult to get a hold of professors, who aren’t holding in-person office hours.

Additionally, the students say the use of Blackboard and/or Zoom for virtual instruction prevents meetings with professors and TAs in person, and that there are limitations — such as a student’s time zone and internet availability — that can make it difficult.

Dominic Pino, opinion editor for Fourth Estate, George Mason’s student newspaper, says he disagrees and thinks that the university should continue letter grades for the fall semester.

“No matter what happens, all of these semesters are going to have an asterisk next to them. If not on the transcript, at least in everybody’s mind,” Pino said.

He thought it was appropriate to go to pass/fail grading at George Mason for the spring semester as online classes were thrown at professors overnight, but they’ve had some time to adjust.

“People are always saying we’re in unprecedented times,” Pino said. “It’s true to a certain extent, but also this has been going on for six months now, There is some precedent now, and when it was more unprecedented there was a stronger argument, I think, for pass/fail,” Pino said.

The University of Virginia has just answered a similar petition, saying they will now give undergraduate students the chance to opt into a pass/fail grading system.

They say students who would have earned a “C” or higher will receive full credit.


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