WCU says ‘no’ to a pass/fail grading option

On Sept. 17, a Western Carolina University student created a petition to implement a pass/fail grading system. This system was used in the spring 2020 semester.

The author of the petition remains anonymous as “Western Carolina University Student,” but they described the reason for the petition as follows:

“Many students at Western Carolina University and other UNC School Systems are struggling with the transition from in-person to hybrid or fully online classes. The universities in North Carolina are still charging full tuition even though many professors are unable to adequately teach material online, leaving students to teach rigorous material to themselves. Last semester we were given the option to choose pass/fail for grading as it did not affect our GPA’s. We would like for the same option to be given to us this semester as it is not any easier than the previous one. If anything, this semester may be even more difficult due to the entire curriculum being online or hybrid. Many professors do not know how to operate zoom which hurts the education we are receiving. Due to students receiving little to no benefits financially or within our education, a pass/fail option for our students is the least our schools could do for us during these difficult and confusing times. With this petition we aim to gain enough attention to this subject for this change to happen.”

The petition has received praise from fellow students.

“Professors are teaching rigorous course material with very little adaptation to online,” Scott Mitchell said. “Classes are more difficult and time-consuming than ever before.”

“We are finding ourselves in yet another instance of having to teach ourselves at a time of panic and confusion,” Tristan Roth said.

“Any changes in the grading system would rest with the Faculty Senate,” WCU spokesman Bill Studenc said in a Sept. 23 email. “At this point, Faculty Senate has not put forth any resolutions to that effect.”

However, Faculty Senate did pass a resolution on Aug. 10 opposing residential opening for the fall 2020 semester.

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, WCU sent an email to students on behalf of Richard Starnes, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. The email stated they would not change from the traditional grading scale. He further explained why the system is not in place this semester, unlike spring 2020.

“This action was temporarily adopted to help students adjust to a rapid change in instructional modality and life factors that impacted students’ ability to complete the academic term as planned,” Starnes said.

Instead of implementing the previously used grading scale, he insisted students “attend class, submit assignments on time, complete co-curricular activities, and accomplish other work assigned in your courses.”

As of Wednesday, Sept. 30, the petition has 1,148 signatures and is available to sign here.