As you probably know, because of coronavirus most American colleges are shut down for the spring semester, with classes being taught remotely, through online lectures, tests, and assignments. But let us us not imagine that the students are actually willing to work during these troubled times. No, they are taking advantage of the pandemic to call for grading systems that reward them without having to do any work at all!
Granted, not all students have computers at home, but I suspect all of them have access to a computer somewhere, so they’d surely be able to have the opportunity for online classes. And I’m even more sure that universities would create special provisions for students who don’t have computers.
Nevertheless, regardless of circumstances, this article from the Yale Daily News (click on screenshot) reports that students are demanding the “universal pass”. Instead of just a pass/fail grading system, which some colleges are going to, they want the right to get a pass without doing any work at all. (Other colleges are giving students a choice between “pass/fail” (which some don’t like because it makes them look lazy) or getting regular letter grades (in the U.S., A, B, C, D, or F).
Citing concerns over equity as Yale moves to online classes for the rest of spring semester, a coalition of undergraduates has urged the University to give grades on a “universal pass” basis — without any possibility of failure for every course this semester.
Days after University President Peter Salovey’s community-wide email announcing the move to online classes, Yale community members have raised questions over the University’s ability to ensure equity among students who are now expected to attend virtual lectures and seminars from their own homes. According to Eileen Huang ’22, requiring undergraduates — many burdened by sickness, hectic home lives or living thousands of miles away from the University — to devote the same level of attention and focus to their classes as they would in the Elm City seems unfair.
The coalition is advocating for a system where students would receive credit for every class — including distributional requirements — and receive a “P” instead of a letter grade on their transcripts.
“Universal pass is just a very fair grading system,” Huang said. “People come from different circumstances.”
Fair? It’s not even a “grading system.” Nobody gets “graded” in the sense of being compared to others. And of course students on campus come from different circumstances as well. Earlier, when the campus closed, Yale administrators decided to offer everyone the “Credit/D/Fail” system for students in all courses, a system that was already available for Yale students in up to four of their courses:
- Any course in Yale College may be taken Credit/D/Fail rather than for a letter grade. If you take a course Credit/D/Fail, a grade of C– or above will be converted on your transcript to “CR.” Grades of D+, D, D–, or F will appear on the transcript as reported by the instructor.
- You may count up to four courses taken Credit/D/Fail toward the bachelor’s degree, and you may take as many as two courses Credit/D/Fail in a single term.
Right now, because of the pandemic’s vacating of Yale, you can still get regular grades from online courses at Yale, but you can also opt for all of your courses to be graded under the Credit/D/Fail option. Notice, though that even with the latter choice you can still get a D or an F. The students don’t want that.
No, the students want to pass every course, and without having to do any work. And if that’s the case, why bother to work? Sure, there will be those diligent students who actually want to learn something, and will work regardless of grades, but do you really think that giving every Yale student an automatic “pass”, without even the option of grades, is going to spur effort? (I’ve just learned that students at Cornell are demanding the same thing, in a request for what they call The Big Red Pass.) That’s like eliminating traffic laws and expecting people to stop at all the red lights.
The Yale administration is pondering this ridiculous demand. Remember, it’s Yale, Jake! That means there’s a strong likelihood the administration will cave.
But wait! There’s more! If you thought that the demand of Yale students is unwarranted coddling, look at what University of Texas students are demanding in a Change.org petition (click on screenshot):
Yep, that’s right; read and weep even harder: everybody gets an A (or an A-, which I suppose is the modern equivalent of “fail”).
This petition is set to urge the administration to change the grading system this semester to a Double-A Policy, meaning all students will receive an A/A- in each class. Due to the inequities other proposed changes in grading policy, such as Universal Pass and Optional Pass/Fail, could precipitate Double-A is the best approach. [FAQ regarding Double-A Policy can be accessed here]
And if you click on the link, you’ll see lots of justification for why this is the best solution, and how it differs from the Yale demands for Universal Pass:
How does Double A differ from Universal Pass?
While Universal Pass would enable educational equity by allowing all students to pass courses universally across the University, and would still include annotated transcripts and faculty recommender guidelines, it may pose concerns for students who require grades for this semester or who could benefit from a grade towards their GPA. Some students require graded courses for scholarship eligibility, ending academic probation, graduate schools, professional certifications, and more. Some students also planned courses to obtain certain GPA thresholds due to previous hardships. While we are lobbying administration to adjust probation thresholds, Double A goes one step further by giving students grades while remaining equitable.
Well, if they require grades, why would they require the highest grade? Why not just grade them as usual, or have the option of choosing Pass/Fail versus regular grades? The idea that because students require grades for their GPA (grade point average) or other things is no way a justification for giving them the highest possible grade. This system is not “equitable” except in the sense of the Dodo Bird Verdict: “All must have prizes.”
I’m sorry, but I see these demands as nothing more than a bunch of students trying to use the current crisis to get either the highest grades possible, or to get A’s without really earning them. Imagine getting the highest possible grade without having to do a lick of work!