Students push for a pass/fail grading system


Matthew Kelly

Tulips bloom by the WIchita State sign at the 17th Street entrance.

UPDATE: The Student Government passed a resolution asking the university to implement the pass/fail grading system during their meeting Wednesday. 

Upwards of 1,000 people have signed a petition asking the university to adopt a pass/fail grading option for the fall 2020 semester. 

Many students have voiced concerns surrounding the grading system, arguing that keeping the normal system during the pandemic will lead to many students struggling to keep up with their grades and classwork. 

Student Senator Aaron Mounts, who started the petition, said that the pandemic has made it near impossible for most students to focus solely on their schoolwork.

“As the pandemic has gone on, the stress of the situation has negatively impacted students’ abilities to even focus,” Mounts said. “If your friends have COVID, you’re going to be a lot more focused on that then you are going to be about doing school.”

Mounts said keeping scholarships is also a main concern he has throughout this semester.

“I’m at risk of losing my scholarships because of my grade point average,” Mounts said. “It’s easier said than done to just bump it up— if you are struggling trying to get through working and classes you are not going to be doing your best work.” 

The university has gotten involved in the conversation, arguing that students and faculty had more time to prepare this semester than the last. 

“The situation last spring, where classes went remote quite suddenly, is not the situation we’re predicting for this fall,” a tweet from the university’s twitter account stated, responding to a student who voiced their concerns. “Our instruction teams were able to plan for the possibility of entirely remote instruction, and many classes already have a remote course.”

Mounts said that even if students and faculty felt like they were prepared when beginning this semester, the argument is flawed. 

“While we all knew kind of what was maybe going to happen, the reality of the situation wasn’t really the case,” Mounts said.

Student Senator Rexhd Martin has spoken with several students about the grading system, and said that they feel that the majority of students are on the same page in their struggles.

“The format was not what I was told it would be, and I had no choice but to go with it,” Martin said. “The general consensus is just, like, this semester is not what they said with me.”

Martin said that the university didn’t give many students what they initially thought they signed up for.

“We thought we knew what we were getting into,” Martin said. “But a lot of hybrid classes I signed up for didn’t end up being hybrid at all.”

“I’m not sure what the motivation is behind [the decision to stick with the current grading system], but if they genuinely believe students are struggling and still don’t give us a pass/fail, then they aren’t listening to the students.”

Student Body Vice President Mackenzie Haas is another student leader who is pushing for the pass/fail grading system. Haas was one of the student leaders who authored a resolution that asks the university to implement the system. 

“One of the biggest determining factors in writing this resolution was that, obviously, we know that students are struggling— and we can all relate to that,” Haas said. “And so just looking at some things that the university could do to make this semester easier for us. Obviously COVID is still happening, so it’s really important that we listen to what students want and what students need right now.”

The resolution doesn’t strictly ask for the pass/fail system. It also asks to discontinue the use of the plus minus system, asks the university to suggest professors to reevaluate their grading scale, stop proctoring exams for the fall, and asks that all students are able to keep their scholarships regardless of their fall 2020 GPA. 

Haas said offering students more flexible grading scales will provide them peace in an ever-changing situation.

“Trying to balance mental and physical health, as well as work and school, is a lot harder in a pandemic as it was before,” Haas said. “It’s all different and it’s really hard to balance that.”

“I think it’s important for us all to have grace for each other and give the benefit of the doubt.”

The resolution will be voted on at today’s student government meeting.