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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Students, faculty discuss pass/fail denial

Pass/Fail petition

Some Texas A&M faculty have received backlash for a recent announcement by the A&M Faculty Senate that declined a pass/fail grading option for the fall semester.
A pass/fail option was accepted for the spring 2020 semester when the COVID-19 pandemic began and classes were conducted virtually. With all classes moving online, the pass/fail option provided some leeway for students with their final semester grades.
The fall 2020 decision to deny this option came after an A&M Student Senate resolution on Nov. 27 was passed in support of pass/fail. Furthermore, a petition for a pass/fail option at A&M was made in September, and has garnered nearly 13,000 signatures since its creation.
Students such as political science senior Qynetta Caston have weighed in on their preference for a pass/fail option. Caston tweeted her concern on Nov. 16.
As the semester is coming to an end, with the final decision already made regarding pass/fail, students are still showing their discontent online. One A&M student tweeted a list of the names of professors she and others blame for the denial of pass/fail — the full list of faculty senators for the fall 2020 semester.
“If you’re [a]ffected/upset by the faculty senate’s refusal to grant pass/fail for this semester, these are the people responsible,” the student tweeted. “If you have any of these professors, express your disdain in your course evals! It may not be much, but it’s something you can do to advocate for your education and wellbeing.”
Professor for the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and speaker of the Faculty Senate John Stallone said the pass/fail decision in the spring was made by the Office of the Provost. The decision to not allow pass/fail in the fall was twofold, Stallone said. First, there was a concern about the effect that a pass/fail grade would have on students planning on attending graduate or professional school.
“Having pass/fail grades instead of letter grades are often viewed as deleterious for the application process to graduate and professional school,” Stallone said. “Faculty were concerned about that.”
Second, Stallone said students are not as engaged in their classes this semester. He said he has experienced this personally, along with other professors. While he recognizes that students were under a lot of stress, Stallone said that faculty was putting forth much effort to teach through adapting their lectures to fit an online format. Stallone said the attendance of his online lectures was only half the number of students registered for the class.
“The students often appeared very unengaged, although I can’t say that of every student,” Stallone said. “For example, in well over a majority of the classes that were face-to-face, students, after a relatively short time, stopped coming to class and just attended the lectures online.”
While this has been an issue discussed by the Faculty Senate for some time, Stallone said he did not see a change in opinion from the faculty after the Student Senate resolution was passed supporting the pass/fail option.
“A relatively small number of faculty were concerned that the pass/fail was not instituted, but by-and-large, most faculty were, I think, were against the idea, based on discussions by the full Faculty Senate,” Stallone said.
Stallone responded to students’ reaction to pass/fail denial, pointing out that some social media users have encouraged students to give their professors negative evaluations for the involvement in this decision, which he said he finds inappropriate.
“Since the senate didn’t pass the pass/fail initiative, there was a move on social media for students to punish faculty senate members by giving them poor teaching evaluations,” Stallone said. “I thought it was totally inappropriate and an unethical thing to do, since the pass/fail initiative has nothing to do with faculty teaching abilities.”

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