More than 5,000 Mississippi State University students have signed a Change.org petition asking the university to give students the option of a "pass-fail" grading system this semester due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Deb Eseyin, a senior studying industrial engineering, started the petition which states students should have the opportunity to let this semester's grades count towards their GPA or choose pass-fail grading, meaning a student gets credit for a class they passed while it does not affect their GPA.
Eseyin said everyone started the semester expecting classes to be in-person, and online learning presents new challenges to students. Online learning is different because students cannot be in physical classrooms with direct access to professors, other students and the university's resources.
"Even though online learning is the best option right now, we need to consider students who benefit from in-person teaching and the students who do not have the resources or the space to study efficiently at home," Eseyin said.
Eseyin believes a pass-fail option would relieve stress for many students who are suddenly having to take difficult classes online while dealing with the uncertainty of COVID-19.
"I am a senior majoring in industrial engineering who has to take Physics II, Differential Equations and Logistics Engineering online," Eseyin said. "Giving students this option would relieve a lot of stress because many of us are worried about keeping up our GPA while having to take difficult classes online."
Ridge Barr, a sophomore majoring in communication, said this option would be a great solution for students. Barr said students are dealing with confusing times surrounding new technology as students are now learning how to use platforms like WebEx and navigating online classes that were meant to be face-to-face.
Barr believes a pass-fail system would be unfair if students who work hard do not get to count their good grades towards their GPA; however, a grading system that allows students to choose is considerate of everyone.
"I feel that having the option for pass-fail is a much better decision," Barr said. "Having the option is good because some students are working hard and can use this semester as a GPA booster, but others that are struggling can choose to make a class pass-fail."
MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said the university is discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the petition's proposal with MSU Student Association leaders and senior MSU administrators.
"At this time, it is simply too early in the transition from traditional classes to online delivery to determine the best policy," Salter said. "There are deep concerns about possible pass-fail impacts on preparing less experienced students for the rigors of upper-level courses."
Salter said the university is listening to feedback and will continue to monitor the situation.
Petition creator Eseyin encourages students to make their voices heard by signing the petition on Change.org and commenting their opinions. People can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to express any comments or concerns regarding the petition.