UC Berkeley students petition for alternative grading models for semester

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Members of the campus community have started two petitions calling for alternative grading systems to be implemented to compensate for the changes caused by the COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, outbreak.

Created by campus junior Matthew Mercier, the first petition, “Change UC Berkeley Spring Grades to be Pass/No-Pass AND Counted as Major Requirements” was started March 16. The petition calls for the option to change UC Berkeley classes this semester from graded to pass/no pass while still counting toward meeting major requirements.

“This is a huge burden,” Mercier said. “On top of that, switching entirely to online classes — Berkeley is such a hard university as is — to make it go completely virtual is super tough on students.”

Mercier began the petition to start the conversation regarding what campus should do, looking at the actions of universities such as MIT when creating the petition. As of press time, the petition has more than 7,000 signatures, with community members giving reasons that share many of the same concerns for the switch to online classes and grades.

Chancellor Carol Christ has since acknowledged the petition, stating in a personal email to Mercier that campus leadership is thinking “carefully” about this issue.

ASUC Senator Nicole Anyanwu also released a petition March 17 that outlines a proposition for grade inflation, named “As For All,” or AFA. According to Anyanwu, this model would allow 90% of a class to receive an A-variant grade based on where they fall within the current grading range, with the remaining 10% of the class receiving a B+. 

Anyanwu noted that the model would benefit students studying abroad, international students, student-parents, those traveling home and those who do not have access to vital study tools. As of press time, this petition has more than 5,360 signatures.

“This is a negotiating tool to get some kind of academic leniency for students to help give students the opportunity to focus on their families, financial and home situations,” Anyanwu said.

ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Aastha Jha said ASUC elected officials sent a letter with their requests and concerns to the Academic Senate regarding grading change policies. According to Jha, the Academic Senate responded, stating that it will take the recommendations into account when making a decision.

Jha noted, however, that the pass/no pass petition has raised concerns for students applying to graduate schools.

A resolution that supports the AFA proposal was voted on in the ASUC Senate meeting Wednesday, according to ASUC Senator Sumrit Grewal.

“This is a matter that is under serious consideration by university leaders and the Academic Senate,” said UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email. “A number of logistical matters — such as various exceptions to policy — need to be worked out. We hope to have a decision by the end of the week.”

Contact Dina Katgara at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dinakatgara.