U Students Petition for Pass/Fail Grades During ‘Extenuating Circumstances’


Adam Fondren

Chronicle archives.

By Natalie Colby, Editor-in-Chief


As University of Utah students prepare to start online classes tomorrow, many students, through different platforms, are petitioning for a pass/fail system for all spring 2020 semester classes. 

Loveleen Ghuman, a member of the senior task committee, has drafted a policy submission in hopes of allowing all students to pass this semester given the extremes circumstances of the Covid-19 outbreak, she said. 

Ghuman was inspired by a professor at Brown and a student council at Yale that advocated for the lessening of academic stress under the current circumstances. She then contacted and started working with Sarah Pitafi, the academic director for the Yale College Council, who shared a Google Drive file with her containing in-depth policy information. The council at Yale has put out a #NoFailYale campaign. 

Since then, Ghuman has drafted a letter for the Academic Affairs Committee, outlined the policy and gathered electronic signatures from students. She plans to submit it this evening.

“All students are currently performing in extraordinary circumstances … The mission of the University of Utah’s Academic Affairs office advocates for equal opportunity, and I believe this policy has the capacity to carry that forward for this semester,” Ghuman said. 

The policy she is advocating for would institute a universal pass system, where students would receive credit for their courses and a P on their transcript. Ghuman said a grade of P, paired with the current context, would “buffer the potentially negative connotations of a grade of ‘credit’ for future employers and graduate admissions officers.”

She said the policy has been spreading through the grapevine quickly.

The response has been exponentially supportive, beyond what I imagined when I started this campaign. There have been almost 100 signatures to support the policy proposal and a campaign started on Change.org was created by another individual all within a few hours,” Ghuman said. 

Despite the support, Ghuman said she does not think the university will pass the policy. If it does not pass, my work moving forward will continue to be what it has been — rooted in physical and mental well-being foremost, equity and equality of opportunity for all students,” Ghuman said.

Additionally, Isaac Reese, a student at the U, created a petition around 3 p.m. on Mar. 18 for students to sign that asks the U to pass all students for their spring classes either with an A letter mark or pass/fail system that won’t affect GPAs. (Reese is also an opinion writer at the Daily Utah Chronicle.)  Many students who support the petition worry the current plan will be detrimental for students. 

While the policy and petition were not created together, they essentially have the same goal.

The petition is meant to emphasize that students may be caring for loved ones and that the outbreak makes it difficult for many focus on school at this time. It reads, “This is not us quitting. This is allowing students to focus on surviving during these harsh and dark times.”

“The option to pass and keep requirements and not lose progress, but not have the detrimental effect on GPA … is a great compromise,” said Victoria Hills, a student studying political science.

Hills also said in a tweet that what everyone needs is to take a pause in life without worrying about the future:

“We’re all sharing this experience together (but while six feet apart),” Hills said. 

Jake Loewenstein, who is studying biology, commented on the petition: “The crazy circumstances of COVID-19 have given students little time to study. It is understandable professors may assume we have time due to social distancing, although every student has a different home environment and way of focusing. Every student should be passed in order to provide an equal opportunity for gaining a degree.”

As of 7:20 pm. today, there were over 2,000 signatures on the petition. The number has grown quickly since the petition was created.


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Editor’s note: Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, tiredness and shortness of breath. These symptoms are believed to occur between two and 14 days after a person is exposed to the disease. If you have these symptoms and have recently come into contact with a person who is known to have COVID-19, or if you have recently traveled to an area with community spread of the disease, you should call your doctor. Areas with community spread of COVID-19 are believed to include China, South Korea, Italy, Iran and Seattle. If you do not have a doctor who you visit regularly, please call the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 or the University of Utah Health hotline at 801-587-0712. Do not go to a healthcare facility without first making arrangements to do so.

Isaac Reese is a current member of the Daily Utah Chronicle and Victoria Hills is a former member. Neither of these students were involved in writing, editing or publishing this article.