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OU student petitions for pass, fail grading amid COVID-19 pandemic

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An OU flag on campus.

An OU student started a petition to transition grades to a pass/fail format for the fall semester Wednesday afternoon.

The petition was started by entrepreneurship senior Jamie Archambeault, who said she decided to organize the effort after it became apparent through word of mouth and personal experience that students were not being given a good opportunity to succeed through online and hybrid education.

“It kind of was just a problem that I was hearing a lot of students also talking about," Archambeault said. "I know it was invoked last semester that we moved to this format when we used pass or fail (grading), and I honestly didn’t get using it (last semester) because at the start of the semester you had a good base because you were in person, and then at the end of the semester you were really just taking your finals and rounding out the semester."

OU offered pass/fail grading for the spring 2020 semester after deciding to go fully virtual after spring break, when the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to spread into the United States.

Archambeault said this semester's circumstances warrant more leniency in grading than the last, however.

"This semester, we started online and it is that much harder to get a good base of material because you’re not in person," Archambeault said, "and so that ultimately kind of frustrated me because we were given this opportunity last semester when circumstances are far worse this semester and we’re not given the same opportunity."

There was discussion on a potential shift to pass/fail grading early in the semester — Aug. 26 — when an OU faculty member shared a story from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's student paper announcing UNC would allow pass/fail grading for the fall semester.

Vice Provost for Instruction and Student Success Mark Morvant responded to the tweet several times, noting at the time there was "no (discussion) to override the current (pass/no pass) grading policies for this fall" and that "there was a good deal of opposition" to the policy change last spring.

"(Pass/no pass) grades were helpful in a dramatic shift in instruction method in the spring," Morvant wrote in the Aug. 26 tweet. "As a long-term policy change, it needs more discussion and agreement. The students are aware of their course format this fall."

As of 8 a.m. Sept. 24, over 880 students have signed the petition, which was started on the evening of Sept. 23.

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