More than 300 people signed a petition to have St. Mary’s College of Maryland move from letter grades to a pass-fail grading policy.
Amid the new coronavirus pandemic that forced colleges across the country, including St. Mary’s College, to transition to online or remote instruction for the rest of the semester, some St. Mary’s College students wanted the grading to be adjusted as well. And the administration was willing to compromise.
Kate Michel, a sophomore at the college, posted a petition on change.org to advocate for a pass-fail grading system since classes would become harder through a computer screen and some students might not have a suitable learning environment back home.
Michel told The Enterprise she received some feedback from other students who said the idea “might not be a good thing for seniors trying to get to grad school.” Comments on Twitter from a student who did not agree with the petition said she wanted her grades to stand out on her transcript and stand out from others.
Michel and her classmate decided to send an email to the college’s administration that would make pass-fail an option instead of the new standard. Before they could send it, students received an email from the college offering the “pass” or P as an option for students who receive a passing grade in the class.
“The school responded very fast and that was good that they did that,” Michel said.
Mike Wick, the college’s provost and dean of faculty, said the college had been talking about grading already, as well as other institutions across the country.
“We wanted to do everything we could to make sure that students are treated fairly,” he said.
He acknowledged students and faculty are not familiar with this mode of learning during the national crisis.
It was requested by a student to pass all the seniors, but Wick said that would have been a “difficult thing for us to do.” He said they have to hold to the integrity of the degree.
He referred to the option as a “safety net.” As an example, he said a student with a B+ who transitions to remote learning could earn a C- in the class. It’s good enough to count toward the course and count toward the major “but it’s still not in alignment with what the performance should be.”
“A [grade of] P will not factor into your grade point calculation so your B+ average would now remain in tact,” Wick said. He later added it’s something other institutions have been looking into.
“I think it can only benefit the graduation rate,” he said about the grading policy. But moving to remote and online instruction could negatively impact the graduation and retention rates, he added. “Learning remotely does not fit everyone’s skill set.”
Michel described going from in-person to online classes as “an awkward transition” and that she will be using the video chat app Zoom in most of her classes, and Google Classroom in another.
“A lot of people are using conference call,” she said.
Wick said there were at least two students who did not have access to internet.
In response, the school provided them laptops and mobile WiFi packs paid for by the school for the next three months. The students will soon transition to Chromebooks once the order has arrived.
“It’s a difficult time for everyone,” Wick said. He added that the school community has come together to support and watch out for one another. He said the relationships built at a small liberal arts college have paid off during this emergency.
As the administration clarifies the academic process moving forward, they also let students know when they can retrieve their belongings from dorms.
A Monday morning email from the college’s dean of students came with a schedule for when students can pack up between March 27 to 30, except for those who traveled over spring break and have COVID-19 symptoms or are in self-quarantine.
There are three shifts and a student’s last name depends on what shift they fall under.
For example, for the Caroline dorm, last names starting with A through G can move out from 8 to 11 a.m., H through P can move out 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Q through Z can return and pack from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information on the process, email email@example.com.