Over 3,000 sign petition for SIU to offer pass/fail option

By Kallie Cox, News Editor

Chloe Schobert | @chloscho_art2020

Update: Dean of Students, Jennifer Jones-Hall said she did not respond to Walker’s email because she was CC’d in it and did not see it.

Students and SIU community members are petitioning the school to give a pass/fail option for classes because of the pandemic closure.

At the time of publication, 3,517 SIU community members, including faculty, staff, students and parents, have signed the petition. 

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Rhett Walker, a junior studying economics, said he started the petition as a way to advocate for other students.

“Students face enormous anxiety and stress related to moving out, future uncertainties, and being unable to interact with friends or participate in student organizations,” Walker wrote in the petition. “Emotional struggles caused by the pandemic will trouble students at different times of the semester and to varying degrees. In the wake of a dangerous and disruptive pandemic, grades should not be a major concern for students.”

Walker said other schools have enacted this policy and if the university doesn’t adopt it, SIU students may be at a disadvantage compared to other institutions. 

“Some students might be at a disadvantage to other students in terms of applications especially for graduate schools,” Walker said. “So I just think you gotta think of it kind of as a whole and as a whole university community, of something we can do to try to keep people on the same level. That’s what I am mostly concerned about, how this one semester will affect people’s GPAs and their applications going forward.”

Georgetown University, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, UC Berkeley, Harvard and Stanford have all adopted a pass/fail system for this semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Walker said the switch to online classes is especially concerning for students who have hands on and lab related classes.

“They might lose credits or not graduate,” Walker said. “I just think this would clear things up whether or not they implement it or if they make an announcement to try and just kind of make a statement about it.”

Walker said he has contacted student trustee Brione Lockett, chancellor John Dunn, the dean of students, student government and the president of SIU and received no response. 

“I’ve sent two different emails, I have them notified, I have them part of the petition too where I think the website notifies them and I haven’t gotten anything,” Walker said. “Not from the student government, the student trustee or any administration.”

Walker said it seems like SIU would rather have students withdraw from classes and pay for tuition again next semester, than help students stay in classes with a pass or fail grading system.

“I know a lot of teachers don’t want to fail a bunch of students and see a bunch of kids drop and I think just extending out this option really makes it fair for some students to not necessarily drop a class because they’re afraid they’re gonna fail it,” Walker said.

Walker said he wishes the administration would at least tell students no. 

“People want an answer and I think these people feel ignored and I especially feel ignored which is kind of surprising, I’d expected to hear something by now,” Walker said. 

Stephanie Graham, a senior studying radiological sciences at SIU, signed the petition and wrote that because of the closure, it is difficult for her to learn the information she needs for her major.

“In terms of our labs, we can’t learn any more hands [on] information which puts us at a huge disadvantage come clinicals in the fall and spring” Graham wrote. 

Kolaiah Nelson, a senior studying music education, responded to the petition and echoed Graham’s concerns.

“My classes are nearly impossible without a face to face class,” Nelson wrote. “Although my professors are working diligently to give us the best education possible during these times, I am still wary of what this might do to my GPA.”

Katelyn Gregory, a senior studying psychology, wrote in her response to the petition that taking 18 credit hours was hard enough before school went online. 

“There is so much on students’ plates right now,” Gregory wrote. “Many students have recently lost their jobs and/or housing. Immunocompromised students have to worry about keeping themselves healthy against the virus. The world is seemingly on hold, as is most of our lives. Having a pass/fail option would tremendously help concerned students and staff.”

Meera Komarraju, provost and vice-chancellor for academic affairs, said the university is looking into the potential of a pass/fail grading system.

“We have received queries regarding a pass/fail grade system and are examining all aspects of this option as it has financial aid implications,” Komarraju said. 

The petition can be found here.

News Editor Kallie Cox can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @KallieECox.

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