Coronavirus sparks calls for “universal pass” grading

Universal pass grading solves equity problems created by distance learning, proponents say
By: | March 23, 2020
Many schools have switched to pass/fail to ease the transition online, but some undergraduates say allowing everyone to pass a course is the most equitable solution.Many schools have switched to pass/fail to ease the transition online, but some undergraduates say allowing everyone to pass a course is the most equitable solution.

The coronavirus has so disrupted college instruction that students on some highly-selective campuses are calling for “universal pass” grading.

That means that no one will be always to fail a remote class during the spring semester of 2020.

A coalition of Yale University undergraduates say no student should fail a spring semester course because of the equity concerns raised by online classes, the Yale News reported.

Proponents say the campus provides a level of equity that cannot be matched when students live at home with less reliable access to the point and potentially less stable living situations, according to the Yale News. 


More from UB: Colleges shift to pass/fail to smooth students’ transition to distance learning


Yale students can already take their courses pass/fail, the Yale News has also reported

A petition calling for universal pass has also begun circulating at The College of William and Mary, which has also shifted to pass/fail grading, according to The Flat Hat, the student newspaper.

“Many students will not have reliable access to housing, food, or the internet throughout the duration of the COVID-19 crisis. As the situation deteriorates and the virus spreads, more and more students and professors are going to become incapacitated. How can we proceed with online classes as if everything is normal?” the petition says.

The student newspaper says the petition was created by student Patrick Canteros, who also urged the college to provide housing and dining refunds.

Students at Vassar College in New York have also called for universal pass grading since the shift to online courses, according to The Miscellany News, that school’s student newspaper.


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“Completing this semester will be difficult for a myriad of reasons that are outside of students’ control, including the loss of safe housing, fractured support systems, and limited internet access,” according to The Miscellany News.

Another coronavirus grading option

Members of the student council at Harvard University are seeking “double-A” grading as the “most equitable academic solution,” according to The Harvard Crimson. 

Under double-A grading, students could only receive either an A or A-minus in their courses, The Harvard Crimson reported.

“While we believe that universal pass-fail is reasonable, we strongly believe that the double-A model is the most beneficial solution given the extenuating circumstances,” Undergraduate Council President James A. Mathew and Vice President Ifeoma E. White-Thorpe wrote in an email, according to The Harvard Crimson.