Mississippi State University announced Monday that they would be going to an optional pass/fail grading system. According to the university press release, students will be allowed to choose per individual course to keep their actual letter grade or to change their grade to an S, P or U.
MSU Chief Communication Officer Sid Salter said there was much discussion among the academic administration, the faculty senate and the student leadership that led to the final decision.
"There was a lot of passionate argument on both sides of the question," Salter said.
MSU Executive Vice President and Provost David Shaw explained the reasoning behind the decision to move to a pass/fail system in a video attached to the press release.
"That decision was based on the overarching desire of the university to balance compassion for the unprecedented disruption in the lives of our students with the need to protect the delivery of rigorous academic content to those students," Shaw said.
Deb Eseyin, a senior industrial engineering major who started a Change.org petition that garnered over 5,000 signatures in support of the university going to a pass/fail system, explained why she thought the new system is best for students.
"A lot of students don't learn a lot with online, so giving the students this option will make sure that, whatever the outcome of the semester is, there's a possibility that the negative outcomes will not affect their GPA, which affects a lot of things like scholarships," Eseyin said.
Salter said the main factor that elongated the decision process for the pass/fail system was the concern that some students would take the change as a reason to stop working as hard in their classes, which would have a detrimental impact on sequential classes such as calculus, which build upon material learned in previous classes.
Eseyin said she still plans to fully apply herself in her classes, but she is glad to have the added pressure of her GPA being affected removed.
"The way that it does take the pressure off is now I don't have to worry about my GPA," Eseyin said. "It doesn't take the pressure off in 'Ok, I'm going to slack in my classes,' because I am a senior so most of the classes I'm taking right now I need to give my full attention, but I don't have to worry as much as I used to about my GPA. I can just focus on actually learning the material and doing my best to be a good student."
Salter said the new system, which provides the option of pass/fail, is a compromise aimed to please those on both sides of the argument.
"I think everybody has an opportunity through this process to be happy with the situation at the end of the semester," Salter said.
According to the press release, students who make an A, B or C can choose to replace the letter grade with a S (satisfactory); students who make a D can replace that grade with a P (passing) and students who make an F can replace that grade with a U (unsatisfactory). S, P or U will then be on the student's transcript but will not affect the student's GPA. Students can make these choices through their MyState portal until 10 a.m. on May 7.
Eseyin said the university's decision to move to the pass/fail system is evidence of the administration's care and concern for their students.
"The one thing I've always loved about being a Bulldog is the fact that the faculty listens, and this is just proof that Mississippi State cares a lot about its students and cares about what the students have to say ... I think this was a great way for Mississippi State to let students know, 'Hey, we're here for you and we're for you and we're going to try everything we can to make sure you are transitioning in the best way possible at this difficult time," Eseyin said.