Editor’s note: A student petition is currently circulating to encourage UT to adopt a Double A grading policy. Show your support by signing it here.
In the past week, our lives have been uprooted.
Many students have been sent home. Many others don’t have a home to go to. Many students are self-monitoring or self-isolating. Others must care for immunocompromised friends and family members in addition to themselves.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected us all, but we are all affected differently. Students who were already vulnerable due to their income, immigration status or sexual identity are now even more at risk. In these uncertain times, it is UT’s responsibility to ensure that all students are taken care of and nobody is left behind.
The University must help its students by allowing them to adapt to these unprecedented circumstances without fear of academic consequences. When our housing, income and safety are all uncertain, the last thing we should have to worry about is our grades. UT’s Faculty Council must adopt the “Double A” policy for this semester, which would ensure that every student receives an A or A- for their work.
If the University is concerned with having a just grading system that reflects the work of its students, Double A is the only option. Any other system would put the students whose lives have been the worst affected by the pandemic at a disadvantage.
With Double A, all students will benefit from having letter grades on their transcripts — not just those fortunate enough to have a stable environment. Students who are facing family, health and financial struggles would also be relieved of unnecessary academic pressure. No student would be substantially advantaged by their privilege, and no student would be disadvantaged by circumstances they cannot control. That’s why according to a survey by UT’s Natural Sciences Council, 73% of UT students support switching to the Double A system.
Currently, UT is allowing students to Q-drop classes until the last class date, May 8, and has guaranteed that these Q-drops will not count toward the six allowed for each student. Similarly, students will be able to change their status in a course to pass/fail until May 8. While the changes are an improvement from the status quo, many scholarships and graduate school applications look down upon pass/fail grades on transcripts. We hope these norms will be ignored, but for now the Double A policy is the only grading system that ensures students will not be punished for living in a pandemic.
Universal pass or universal pass/fail systems also fall short, still failing to serve students who need letter grades for scholarships and graduate schools. Additionally, allowing students to opt in or opt out of these systems creates a hierarchy — students with stable lives will be able to take courses for letter grades and boost their GPA, while students in less privileged positions won’t have that luxury.
With the pressure of moving to online courses while our daily lives are changing drastically, a pass/fail system does not adequately accommodate students of all learning styles and extenuating circumstances. We must eliminate the chance for students to fail because of bad Wi-Fi, financial and health pressures, difficulty learning in online settings and changes in housing situations.
The Double A system ensures that every student, regardless of their situation or disadvantage, has a fair opportunity to succeed in a time when everything else is uncertain.
We are living in nothing short of a crisis. The last thing students who are struggling to pay bills, finding stable housing, caring for loved ones and caring for themselves need to worry about is maintaining a GPA or passing a class.
The Double A policy is the only grading system that ensures that all students have a level playing field to succeed in these unprecedented times. UT must do the right thing and adopt Double A — students must not be penalized for a situation they cannot control.
When everyday life has fundamentally changed, completing coursework is a sign of academic achievement. UT should implement a grading system that reflects this type of student accomplishment. Maybe it is a radical change to grading policy, but in a crisis the only “unfair” grading policies are the ones that leave students behind.
The editorial board is composed of associate editors Abhirupa Dasgupta, Hannah Lopez, Sanika Nayak, Abby Springs and editor-in-chief Spencer Buckner.