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Coronavirus in Florida

Students petition the state’s largest universities to expand pass/fail grading amid coronavirus disruption

Students argue campus closures are causing stress and anxiety.

Tens of thousands of college students are asking some of the state’s universities to expand pass/fail grading for the spring semester because of the disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak

Students started their petitions on March 17th, shortly after the Board of Governors ordered public universities to move all classes online for the rest of the spring semester to help contain the novel coronavirus spread.

So far more than 77,000 college kids have signed the petitions for six of the state’s largest schools: University of Florida, Florida State University, University of South Florida, University of Central Florida, Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University.

Pass/fail grading is also known as satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading. Instead of earning a letter grade of A-F, they would either pass or fail. Some classes already have this type of grading and students can apply for it in other classes. The petitions are asking that the application process be open to every student.

The UF petition, which was signed by 18,142 supporters, worked. The school’s website says it’s working on creating a pass/fail or drop option for students. It doesn’t provide any other details.

The UCF petition has so far has more than 15,500 signatures. The petition says that students who are also dependent on working to pay for school are already worrying due to the fact that many businesses are closing. 

“Most importantly, students should be prioritizing their health rather than worrying about getting A’s in their classes,” it reads.

The FIU petition has collected more than 29,000 signatures. It cites the uncertain situation many students are facing because of the pandemic. It says the closing of campuses and the switch to online classes, along with the economic impact is causing some to experience financial strain and having to return to unstable home environments.

More than 7,000 people have signed the USF petition. It says because of the confusing and stressful situation, students’ grades will probably drop.

“The sudden changes caused by this pandemic are sure to cause a great deal of stress and anxiety across the student body,” it says. “Many students are having to pack and return home while juggling studying for exams or completing assignments.”

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Some of the petitions note that other higher education institutions elsewhere have made the switch to pass/fail because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Among the petitions circulating regarding the six Florida universities, the idea appears more popular among students from some schools than others. The FSU petition, for example, has so far just garnered 22 signatures. 

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

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