Student starts petition to move to pass-fail grades for Spring term

Andrew Chiwara, a sophomore agribusiness student from Broward County, started the petition on Thursday and it had more than 4,000 signatures by midday Saturday. Photo courtesy Chiwara

Tuesday’s announcement that all classes at FAMU will be online-only for the remainder of the semester due to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has led to an uproar from the student body.

On Thursday, a petition was created to propose that “Florida A&M University passes its current students for the Spring 2020 semester to help remove remedy which is one of the many issues that has arisen due to the outbreak of this pandemic.”

The petition — to switch from traditional letter grades to a pass-fail system — was posted online and sent through GroupMe. As of Saturday it already had more than 4,000 signatures from students, parents and community members. It also has support from students at other schools such as Bethune-Cookman University and Tallahassee Community College. Many students have voiced their concerns about the petition on social media apps such as Twitter and Instagram.

Andrew Chiwara, a sophomore agribusiness student and the creator of the petition, clarified the reason why he started the petition.

“I created this petition to propose an idea to a problem that I felt wasn’t being addressed as much. No one, my self included has all the answers, so I thought a petition with a majority of the student signing it would help sway the university leaders in their decision on how to move forward with the rest of the semester,” he said.

He said the concept is to create a safety net for those who are not strong remote learners.

Ebonie Byrd, a criminal justice student with a minor in pre-law, expressed her concerns on Twitter about the pass or fail method.

“I feel as if the pass/fail method could help many students but it is not fair to the student body. It is not fair at all. It is not fair because we worked hard during the semester before the virus and we are almost at the end of the semester. Whatever grade you have now is the grade that you earned. Others need these courses to go toward our GPA for grad school, which I am trying to apply for in the future. Also, I feel as if the professors should be helping their students as much as possible since we are transitioning to online classes instead of adding more work to the workload. Many students cannot handle an online class or produce the best work from those classes,” she said.

Eddlentz Philistin, an accounting student, thinks that this method should be an option.

“A ‘Satisfactory’ or ‘Unsatisfactory’ grade should be forced on all students. It should be an option for students who can prove they’ll have extreme difficulty with the online courses. This is the best option as there are students who’ve either worked too hard or are dependent on this semester to boost their GPA,” he said.

Students are not the only ones voicing their concerns about this petition. There are parents who are worried throughout this pandemic and they have spoken as well.

Jamaris Hall, a proud Rattler and a father, thinks that the students around the country need time to adjust and practice social distancing.

“These students have worked so hard in the beginning of the semester, up until their spring breaks. It is unfortunate that this virus has spread across the country and caused so many problems within weeks. With so much going on within households, jobs, schools, etc., these students need a break. I understand school is a priority but right now isn’t the time to stress these kids out, especially the ones who come from unstructured backgrounds,” he said.

Individuals who are interested in signing the petition can visit where they can sign their names and express concerns.