June 5, 2020

Webster gives students choice on pass/fail grading

Webster students have the option to make any of their courses pass/fail until April 24.

Webster University adjusted its pass/fail policy for the spring semester in response to classes moving online. The new policy gives students the option to take any course pass/fail with the instructor’s agreement. All pass/fail decisions must be made by April 24. Webster also adjusted the credit/no credit option for graduate students.

Film student Justin May started a petition just three days prior to the university’s announcement. The petition advocated to change Webster’s grading system to pass/fail. May heard his friends discussing their desire for the change and decided to do something.

“I saw the need for action,” May said. “It was a no brainer after seeing the success of other petitions to do the same. I knew there was significant support, but I wasn’t sure how far [the petition] would go.”

The petition received over 1,100 signatures and got the attention of members of Webster’s faculty.

School of Communications’ Associate Dean Aaron AuBuchon worked to make sure the new policy is adjusted accordingly for different classes and departments.

“I think it’s interesting that they decided to start a petition before they asked a question,” AuBuchon said. “I’m glad students are paying attention to this stuff, but if they would’ve asked, I would’ve been happy to tell them the university was actively talking about this in the background.”

Some students took issue with the petition calling for a universal pass/fail system. Webster senior Kaleigh Finney, a straight-A student, said pass/fail is not something she needs or wants.

“The petition did not understand the potential ramifications for making the pass/fail system mandatory,” Finney said. “I’m trying to apply for law school. They look for stellar academic records and having an entire section of ‘P’s’ does not make you look like a serious applicant.”

Finney added she is glad Webster made pass/fail an option rather than mandatory.

“I think mandating all students to do so would create an environment in which students are not achieving their full academic potential,” Finney said.

May agreed it was ultimately the right decision to make pass/fail a choice for students.

“Initially, I figured it would be easier to convert all Webster classes to pass/fail,” May said. “However, I think that the university handled it very diplomatically and found a compromise between all or nothing.”

The policy, according to AuBuchon, was put in place to allow students to choose the right course of action for them.

“We want to make this a time of less anxiety and less frustration, and I know that is the spirit of the policy,” AuBuchon said. “I want to make sure that people understand that [relieving stress] is the goal. Your faculty is there to work with you.”

AuBuchon advised students to talk to their advisors to decide if they even should take advantage of pass/fail.

“If you’re doing okay in the class, why not let it positively impact your GPA?” AuBuchon said. “I honestly think it will be a smaller number of students [who use pass/fail] than we initially were thinking.”

The policy is only active for the spring semester. The policy will revert back once the campus is reopened, potentially for the fall 2020 semester.

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