Counter-petition gains popularity online against changing grading system

(Courtesy of Eduardo Merille via Flickr)

As some schools like MIT and Grinnell College have gone to pass/fail grading for this coronavirus-infected spring, a Change.org petition to do the same at FIU has gained more than 12,000 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

And now a new effort opposes the idea.

Another Change.org petition, with little information other than the statement, “We have worked too hard to make the semester pass/fail. Let’s just transition online and have a normal semester!” began trending online.

By Wednesday morning, the petition was at just over 1,400 signatures.

The students that would be primarily affected are those in the medical field and others applying to graduate school, since changing grades to pass/fail could impact their transcripts and applications — though it is not clear how or if this would happen.

Shifra Garkinkel, a FIU student who applied to nursing school this spring, is worried about moving to pass/fail. She, like many others, believes this system will give struggling students a pass that they don’t deserve. She wants hard studying to be properly reflected in the GPA.

“I happen to be working extremely hard in this [anatomy] class and I want it to be shown in my GPA,” she said. “I signed up for this class at the beginning of the semester to get a grade, not for a pass/fail.”

The worst possible outcome for students would be a requirement to retake this semester’s courses for grades. That outcome could delay plans to apply for graduate school by the end of this semester or the next one.

Vicky Rojas is an FIU senior applying to Nova Southeastern University’s physician assistant master’s program. She’s worried she might have to retake courses such as anatomy, clinical nutrition, counseling nutrition and medical terminology if the change is implemented.

However, many medical students like Garfinkel and Rojas are willing to compromise.

An alternative solution would be giving each student the option to elect whether they want to keep the traditional grading method or go pass/fail. Such an example was announced by Carnegie Mellon University last week.

Both students said they would be willing to make a compromise such as giving a curve to all students.

“I think giving a curve would be a lot of help,” Rojas said. “It is really difficult to learn the different parts of the body through the computer because we are not touching or holding the models like in the [anatomy] lab.”

Garfinkel added, “For people who have been doing well and working their butts off, it would be like a kick in the leg to have to take the class again.”

Angelo Gomez is a journalism and political science double major at Florida International University. He is a "huge Marvel and Star Wars nerd, lover of all sports and a politics geek."