UT Senate of College Councils passed legislation to increase pass/fail options, awaiting approval from Student Government, Graduate Student Assembly

Sheryl Lawrence

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 9 issue of The Daily Texan.

The Senate of College Councils passed legislation Thursday calling on the University to increase the limit of COVID-19 pass/fail exceptions from three to six due to Winter Storm Uri. 

The legislation was fast-tracked when it was introduced, so it was voted on during the same general assembly meeting, instead of having college representatives take the legislation back to their councils for discussion.  

The legislation will be introduced at the Student Government assembly on Tuesday and at the Graduate Student Assembly on Wednesday. The assemblies have the option to fast-track the legislation similarly to the Senate, but they could decide to wait until the following week to vote on the legislation.

University administration approved a new pass/fail policy in November for undergraduates to request taking up to three classes as pass/fail across the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters. COVID-19 pass/fail exceptions will still count classes toward degree requirements under the current policy. This approval came after a joint resolution was passed by all three legislative student organizations and faculty council and a petition gained over 700 signatures. 

In February 2021, Texas endured Winter Storm Uri, which affected many students’ access to food, water and power. UT-Austin canceled classes for a week and a half due to the storm. The amount of damage exceeds the amount of Hurricane Harvey, the last natural disaster in Texas, according to The Texas Tribune

Apoorva Chintala, the author of the legislation, said they plan to release a petition on Monday to gain student support for this change.

Senate President-Elect Steven Ding said he reached out to academic advisers, who said it wouldn’t be much more work since the system is already in place for the original pass/fail policy. Ding said the academic advisers are more concerned with students who are on academic probation or are at risk for being on academic probation.

“Most of their concerns were … how (prerequisites) are affected as more students take pass/fails,” said Ding, a management information systems and urban studies junior. “Some proposals they shared with us are potentially closing the pass/fail system the day after grades are due for the spring, so that advisers can run checks on students to try to identify students who are at risk and pointing them to resources, and then open up the pass/fail system again.”