Today, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dan Reed announced a change to the grading system for students at the University of Utah to students through their Umail.
Starting March 23, students will have the opportunity to choose whether they want each of their classes to be pass/fail or to get a traditional letter grade, and they have until April 10 to make this decision. If a student chooses to convert their classes into credit or no credit classes, it will not contribute to the 15 allowed credit, no-credit courses the U allows for undergrad.
Additionally, students have the opportunity to withdraw from classes before that date without penalty. If this option is chosen, however, there will be no tuition refunds.
In a video announcing the change, Reed suggested that students seek guidance from an advisor about whether the choice is right for each particular course.
“We recognize that the rapid and unexpected transition to online education has created uncertainty among both faculty and staff, and it will to varying degrees affect educational delivery mechanisms and quality for different courses and different students. That’s why we are allowing students to opt for credit, or non-credit for each course,” Reed said in the same video.
In the email sent to all students, Reed emphasized that he hopes this will work to help accommodate most students at this time of uncertainty and stress.
“We are doing this recognizing the need for flexibility and accommodation,” he said. “Know that the university is here for you, we are committed to supporting your education and your personal success.”
The decision came after a Change.org petition to institute a pass-fail policy at the U received 7,708 signatures and several students emailed Reed personally, advocating for the policy after the effects of the coronavirus and an earthquake on Mar. 18.
“Students raised their voices by signing this petition and together as a student body we were able to demand change and get change. This is an amazing feat to get those in power to listen,” said Issac Reese, the creator of the petition, in a letter that celebrated the success of the petition. (Reese is also an opinion writer at the Daily Utah Chronicle.)
Loveleen Ghuman, a fourth-year student studying philosophy of science and neuroscience, said students were on the minds of the committee when the policy decision was being made.
“Student voices allow for better reflection of what we want in policies that directly and indirectly impact us. Our voices allow for a sense of community with each other and call to action for administration,” she said.
Ghuman, who is advocating for a universal pass policy, said she understands the stress the Academic Affairs committee is under and respects the work they have done, but said she will continue to fight for educational equity which she believes is left out of the new change.
She said the credit/no-credit policy still leaves those who are truly struggling behind.
“I view this policy as going about it as “business as usual” when it is certainly not the case, The UP [Universal Pass] policy aims to alleviate structural inequities that cannot be solved by University of Utah ‘throwing money’ at our problems or using an opt-in/opt-out grade system,” she said.
The #UPassIPass campaign focuses on providing assistance to those who are struggling with housing, food and income instability with the shutdown of the university and several cities across Utah.
“We cannot guarantee that everyone at the University of Utah is well-equipped to continue the semester. The grade letter system does not account for highly varied living situations and resources and creates a stigma around choosing the CR/NC or W option,” Ghuman said.
She urges the administration to prioritize educational equity as COVID-19 continues to spread through communities and institute a universal pass policy.
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.