By Johnny O’Brien
A call to action for pass or fail classes at Florida Tech, that was created by an SGA senator, has over 2,200 signatures since the petition was posted on chang.org five days ago.
Madison Ulvenes, a sophomore majoring in sustainability, created the petition on Wednesday, Mar. 25 to give a voice to those students who may be struggling during this time.
“I’m hoping that this will help provide another option to those who need it and ultimately make this hard time less stressful,” Ulvenes said.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges nationwide have switched to online instruction only, and have had to deal with challenges such as examining the current grading system in place.
Based on an article published by the Los Angeles Times on Mar. 27, many schools such as Stanford University and Dartmouth College have already implemented a pass or fail system since moving to online class instruction only. The article went on to cite the pass or fail system as a way for students to receive passing grades without it being detrimental to their GPA.
The new grading system would thus show grades as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. The article also stated that other colleges have debated switching to this system or utilizing the original grading system for students that need a tangible GPA.
Other schools such as University of California, Los Angeles and Yale University have chosen not to impose mandatory pass or fail grades, rather to give students the option to choose between letter grades to receive a GPA or the pass or fail system.
Ulvenes explained that the petition she created calls for students to have an option between the pass or fail system and receiving a GPA based on letter grades.
“It should be the students choice to decide how they want their courses to be graded during this unusual time,” Ulvenes said
As of Mar. 30, the Florida Tech pass or fail petition on change.org has received over 2,200 signatures.
Ulvenes said she hopes that the Florida Tech administration will take the petition into consideration and recognize the benefits the system could bring to students.
“I was always hoping for a few thousand signatures,” Ulvenes said, “but I was and still am shocked by the overwhelming support.”
Senior Buse Dayioglu, the press secretary for the Student Government Association at Florida Tech, has been following the amount of signatures since the petition was created. Dayioglu realizes nothing is set in stone, but feels the petition is valuable for students.
“My only concern for us students is to be able finish this semester successfully,” Dayioglu said. “Many of us already suffered from losing the ability to present projects, have internships and walk across the stage.”
Another reason Ulvenes created this petition was because she believes the learning curve going from traditional instruction to online instruction will be difficult for all students.
“We’ve grown up learning face to face and that’s really how most of us are efficient in learning,” Ulvenes said. “Online instruction is efficient for those who are used to it, but that isn’t the case for most students here and we’ve been thrown into it instantly.”
To Ulvenes, adaptability in change of the mode of instruction mid semester is an aspect not every student can cope with and still achieve the same learning curve.
“A big part of our learning experience has also been helping our friends and learning through them, going to support centers, working in groups,” Ulvenes said. “This kind of learning just isn’t possible through online instruction.”
Brett Twery, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering was one of many students who signed the petition.
“This situation of online classes may be a blessing to some students and their GPAs if they haven’t performed well in the past,” Twery said.
While Twery believes online instruction might make homework assignments, tests and lectures easier for some, he has other concerns that could negatively affect students and their grades with these curriculum structure changes.
Referencing the numerous locations at Florida tech where students can learn, study, collaborate, and do homework; Twery is concerned with students’ productivity now that some of these locations are closed or have limited hours of operation.
“When one is trapped inside all day, or forced to only work by themselves, the primary human instinct is to be lazy and procrastinate,” Twery said.
While Twery hopes this petition gets passed for the students sake, he is doubtful that it will because there is “nearly one month of school left.”
“I think administration would like the grading system to remain the same, so it would follow suit with the typical school accreditation criteria, which is understandable,” Twery said.
According to Florida Tech’s Provost, Korhan Oyman, Florida Tech’s institutional regional accreditation would not be affected if a pass or fail option was implemented this term.
Oyman said that Florida Tech’s regional accreditation body, The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, has encouraged institutions to consider a pass or fail option for the remainder of this semester.
“We should be mindful of the need to inform students of the implications of selecting pass or fail instead of a grade,” Oyman said. “Such as the understanding of how it would or would not impact GPA, financial aid, or athletic requirements.
On Mar. 31, The registrars office stated in an email to the Florida Tech community that the university “is reviewing a pass or fail option.”
Given the current circumstances and changes that have been made on campus because of Coronavirus concerns, Dayioglu believes we should all follow guidelines provided by authorities and focus on our own well being for the time being.
“Many things are closed, not just on our campus but worldwide and it is affecting all of us one way or another,” Dayioglu said.
Click here to view the change.org petition for pass or fail classes at Florida Tech.
Corrections were made to this article on Mar. 30 at 7:15 p.m. regarding uncertainty of the amount of enrolled Florida Tech students signing the petition.
Updates to this story regarding how a pass or fail option would affect Florida Tech’s accreditation according to Provost Oyman were made on April 3 at 12:15 p.m.