University Senate advocates universal pass/fail option for undergraduate students

Although the decision awaits Vice Provost Rachel Croson’s approval, the resolution shows additional support for a universal S/N grading system for the remainder of the academic year.

by Ava Thompson, Campus Activities Reporter

The University Senate passed a resolution with a 153-36 vote on Dec. 3 for a universal pass/fail, or S/N, grading option for undergraduate students and now awaits a response from the vice provost.

The resolution, based on a Minnesota Student Association resolution written by Matthew Croft, calls for all University of Minnesota undergraduate students to have the option to choose an S/N grade basis for any, or all, of their classes for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year, including after final grades are posted. Courses taken with S/N would meet all graduation and program requirements, provided students earn a grade that meets requirements under A/F.

The resolution indicates strong support for a more flexible grading system for students amid the stresses of the pandemic. The University Senate now awaits a response from the Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel Croson.
Croson announced in an email Oct. 30 that students had the option to change the grading basis for their classes until Nov. 30 but that the change did not apply to major and minor courses.

MSA, like student government leaders across the Big Ten, asked that the University allow students to choose the S/N grade basis for any of their classes in October earlier in the semester. More than 1,000 people have signed a petition supporting S/N options for this fall.

The University extended the timeline for students to decide whether to take a class S/N until after final grades were posted for the 2020 spring semester.

In a Nov. 17 email, MSA asked students to share their testimonies on S/N grading and to help contact faculty and administrators. About 630 students responded in total.

Many of students cited mental health concerns in their testimonies due to the stress of work and school in addition to the pandemic.

An anonymous engineering student said they lost a parent over the summer and that switches to an S/N grading system would be extremely valuable.

“I struggle financially, so going to college for anything more than 4 years is not doable,” said the student. “I also come from an unstable household and have mental health problems, and quarantine and social isolation proved very difficult and affected my learning.”

Another anonymous student said they are struggling with the 14-hour time difference between Malaysia, their home country where they are currently living, and when class is scheduled.

“I am also worrying about my health issues while staying up late to do assignments, projects and exams too. However, if i dont stay up late, I feel lost and also have issues catching up on classes,” they said.

MSA’s director of communication, Shelby Jacobson, said that MSA brought the resolution to the senate quickly and got two senators, James Farnsworth and Jack Flom, involved in drafting the new resolution.

“We were getting in touch with students as much as possible to get as much information out in the short amount of time,” said Jacobson in an email to the Minnesota Daily. “We were thrilled with the results of students sharing their opinions on S/N grading, but it was also heartbreaking to read all of the stories from students.”

This story has been updated to include the author of the S/N resolution, Matthew Croft.