Students circulate petition for pass/no-credit grading options
Maggie Eastland | Tuesday, October 27, 2020
Citing interruptions to lesson plans and added stress due to the coronavirus pandemic, several Notre Dame students drafted a petition calling for students to have the option to designate their classes as pass/no-credit. As of late Sunday night, over 1,320 students signed the Google form petition, representing more than 15% of the undergraduate student body.
According to the petition, which began circulating Wednesday, Oct. 21, “Moving to an optional pass/no-credit grading system akin to that which was implemented in the spring semester 2020 would not only be more fair to students, but it would help relieve academic-induced student anxiety and improve the overall mental wellbeing of the student body.”
Senior Michael Dugan of Dillon Hall, sophomore Connor Patrick of Dillon Hall, first year Ella Murphy of Flaherty Hall and senior Olivia Rubin of Cavanaugh Hall are sponsoring the petition and plan to bring a formal resolution before the senate. (Editor’s Note: Dugan is a former News Writer and Systems Administrator for The Observer.)
The petition reached its initial goal of 500 signatures, “within five hours of the petition being released to the public.
“We then set a stretch goal of 1000 signatures, which we obtained in the early afternoon of Thursday, October 22,” Dugan said.
The petition remains open for additional signatures.
“We will continue to accept signatures until the University takes formal action on this issue,” Patrick said in an email.
The formal resolution says the Office of the Provost wrote the University would adopt a pass/no-credit grading system for spring semester 2020, “due to significant alteration to the manner in which classes were taught and course content delivered in this distance learning environment.”
Next, the resolution identifies the two weeks of online learning due a surge in COVID-19 cases on campus as a similar disruption to learning.
The document states, “the active and large outbreak of COVID-19 that occurred in the University community early in the Fall 2020 Semester caused temporary but significant disruptions to the educational environment, both for students and faculty.”
The resolution also cites the negative mental health effects due to the stresses of the pandemic and the absence of fall break. It called Restoration Week a “good faith attempt,” but “not sufficient to adequately address the extraordinary levels of burnout and stress that are present in the undergraduate student body.”
Dugan said he was inspired to write this petition after noticing a high level of burnout among his peers this semester.
“The extent of this burnout and the severity thereof necessitate swift and sweeping action by the University,” Dugan said. “Once again, we are calling for the University to take serious and decisive action to relieve student anxiety and to promote well-being, much as it did in the Spring Semester 2020.”
He also said that news of a recent survey, finding over 50% of all Notre Dame students fall into the category of “serious distress” according to the Kessler-6 test, broke only a few hours after the petition was released. Combined with the student senate’s previous resolution calling for a greater focus on addressing the pandemic’s negative mental health effects, Dugan said this survey confirms the need for pass/no-credit grading options.
Dugan also said the petition writers have informed the judicial council of their plan to submit the petition with the full list of signatures to the student senate on Tuesday evening, making the resolution eligible for a vote in Thursday’s senate meeting. If the petition is not included in Thursday’s agenda, the student senate will convene in a special meeting to discuss the petition within one week of its submission.
Senior Rachel Ingal, student body president, confirmed in an email that as long as the petition gathers the required 200 signatures, it will be discussed within the next week in the senate.
“I look forward to hearing the discussion at the meeting and hope that the dialogue can prove to be fruitful,” Ingal said.