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In a matter of three days, the student petition has obtained over 4,500 signatures. 

A petition created by an anonymous Texas A&M student on change.org is calling on university administration to shift spring semester grades to a pass/fail scale.

In three days, the online petition addressed to Provost and Executive Vice President Carol Fierke has garnered over 4,500 signatures. The appeal states that amid daily updates of COVID-19 and the complications of returning home on short notice, students should not concern themselves as fiercely with the pressure of maintaining grades.

“Due to the move of classes online, students have had their lives disrupted,” the petition states. “They will not have the same in-class education experience. Some have to deal with moving back home to unstable environments lacking food, water, internet, or supportive parents. Some may also be fleeing domestic violence.”

The petition states it is “unreasonable” to enforce normative grading procedures as the university cannot take into account the potential circumstances each student will be living in for the remainder of the semester. A pass/fail scale will allow students “breathing room” in a post-coronavirus curriculum, according to the petition.

Marine biology senior Molly Dooling signed in favor of the appeal and commented on its homepage about the class-related concerns students could face in quarantine.

“Some people do not have consistent reliable access to internet or video and microphone enabled technology at home, not to mention that some students will have to be taking care of younger siblings, grandparents or, God forbid, sick family members during this crisis,” Dooling said.

According to Student Rule 10.3, unless a student obtains an “unsatisfactory” grade in a pass/fail course, the hours a student completes will not be included in the calculation of their GPA. Aerospace engineering senior Jerod Venable said this gives students the opportunity to begin next semester with a GPA unaffected by any extenuating circumstances.

“By combining A, B and C into a single ‘pass’ designation, these students will be able to prioritize learning the material with less concern about how their final letter grade will affect their academic status,” Venable said.

However, some students stand in contrast to the petition. Psychology sophomore Jett Reinhardt noticed the appeal when a classmate linked it in his organic chemistry GroupMe. At the time, it had already garnered 1,600 signatures and counting, to which Reinhardt voiced his disapproval.

“Pass/fail classes have no effect on your GPA, so those of us, myself included, relying on this semester to boost their GPA and change majors, or even those of us who are doing very well this semester would be set back,” Reinhardt said.

Later that day, Reinhardt said he took to Twitter to inform others of the drawbacks of a pass/fail scale, particularly affecting those in the medical field.

“Graduate schools such as medical and physician assistant schools under normal circumstances do not accept any credits for prerequisites — like the ochem class I'm in — if they are taken as a pass/fail,” Reinhardt said. “Even these classes being moved online could be denied. They may offer an exception, but no one will know for sure until they apply and interview later on.”

Venable said he sympathizes with those pursuing graduate programs that may reject pass/fail courses. Allowing students to individually select their preferred grading system may be a solution, but Venable said there will be numerous factors to consider before any administrative decision is made.

“We all have different desires, and we can all see different benefits and detriments in each system,” Venable said. “I am simply making an appeal to everyone’s sense of decency. If you see this as an opportunity to boost your GPA, think instead about the people who may see a drop in their GPA through no fault of their own. If you are worried about the people who will take advantage of the pass/fail system to get by, worry instead about those who won’t make it by without that system. … It’s unfair for anyone to be affected by this, but I’m trying to keep my focus on the most vulnerable.”

Life & Arts editor

Hollis Mills is an English and communication senior and life & arts editor for The Battalion

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