CHANCELLOR KOCH READ THIS: We Need a Pass/Fail Option
By: Hayley Payne, Editor-in-Chief
On March 27 2020, an email was sent out from the UIS Office of Registrar stating that students have the option to be graded according to credit/no credit standards. The email lists important factors to keep in mind along with the deadline to withdraw or change grading options.
Over the past few weeks, and the last one in particular, students at UIS have had their worlds turned upside down. Important events have been cancelled, such as the annual Model United Nations conference, speech and debate tournaments and commencement ceremonies. However, these pale in comparison to when, shortly before 11 a.m. on March 17, we received an email telling us that we were required to vacate our homes by 6 p.m. on March 20.
The students of UIS, barring those few who spent two panic-filled days waiting for responses regarding their exemptions, have been turned out on their ear. We have been forced to pack up our entire lives at a moment’s notice. Those who have been forced to leave are fearful of potentially exposing vulnerable loved ones to the virus, those with jobs in Springfield are frightened over losing their primary source of income and those who are just plain terrified as their entire sense of normality and routine is crashing down around them. This is not a psychological climate hospitable for academic success. Mackenzi Matthews, political science and public policy junior and parliamentarian to the Student Government Association, described the past few weeks as having been “some of the most traumatic regarding my educational career… and when I looked to the university for stability, all I was met with was panic. I understand that the university is trying its best but between the growing anxiety over health and housing, let’s not add grades to the list…Let us grieve our lost semester in peace and let us focus on staying healthy both physically and mentally.”
Beyond this, this situation has erected significant material barriers against academic success. Many students lack stable Internet connections at home and rely on Brookens Library and other university resources in order to complete online class components. Asking these students to shift entirely to an online course load while denying them access to these resources is forcing them into a Hobson’s Choice of dropping or failing. And while the technological aid that UIS has offered thus far is certainly commendable, it is insufficient – what good is a university laptop when one lacks an internet connection, and the majority of institutions and businesses offering public Wi-Fi are closed? The university’s response when one student brought forth this issue was to direct her to free trials by various Internet providers. To say this is deficient is an understatement, and putting the onus on students to solve this subsidiary crisis of the administration’s own making is morally abhorrent.
There is a solution to all of this, though. There is an online petition at change.org with over 1,000 signatures to provide a blanket passing grade for all those enrolled in this semester, a link to which will be provided at the bottom of this article. While this certainly an understandable goal given the gravity of the present situation, the current university administration may view this as a step too far. As such, I propose a compromise, a pass/fail option for this semester for any who want it. Many of the top universities in the country are making this change, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgetown University, Duke University, Vanderbilt University, and Northwestern University. They have acknowledged this change as necessary for the welfare of students as well as teachers.
So I extend a question to the administration of UIS, to Chancellor Koch, and the administration of the University of Illinois as a whole. President Kileen: if this is good enough for them, if the top universities in the country see this as a good and necessary action in these trying times, then why not us?
Link to Change.org petition: www.change.org/p/university-of-illinois-at-springfield-passing-grade-for-2020