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Students demand straight As for spring semester over coronavirus hardships

Following in the footsteps of students at Harvard University, students at UT Austin recently launched a petition demanding straight As for their spring semester, citing various hardships brought on by their university’s coronavirus response.

The demand comes as colleges and universities nationwide have forced students to leave their dorms and transition to online classes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hardships cited in the UT Austin petition include food insecurity, a lack of internet access, unreliable housing, sibling babysitting needs, family healthcare obligations, and time zone problems for international students.

“When the lives of yourself and your loved ones are in jeopardy, academics should be the last thing you have to be concerned about,” states the petition, signed by some 6,100 people as of Sunday night.

While many universities are strongly considering moving to some sort of pass/fail grading system, the proposal for straight As seeks to go much further than that.

An accompanying FAQ page explains more.

“Under a Double A system, students would receive credit for all of their courses and a grade of either A or A- on their transcript,” it states, noting professors have the discretion to choose between an A or A-minus for each student.

“No student will be penalized for factors and circumstances outside of their control. Every student at UT will receive one of these grades in all of their courses and receive credit towards their concentration, distributional requirements, and graduation,” the petition states.

The UT Austin petition was adapted from one recently circulated at Harvard that called for the same thing.

“In order to prioritize student wellbeing and educational equity under these difficult circumstances, Harvard administration must adopt a universal Double A Model for the Spring 2020 semester,” states the petition, created by a group calling itself Harvard For All.

“… While we understand that universal measures may seem drastic, any non-universal system will actively discriminate against the most marginalized students, including those who do not have internet access, who have sick relatives, who live internationally, or who have exacerbated mental health concerns,” the petition states.

According to an email the activists are circulating asking Harvard students to send to professors to lobby for this proposal, some 1,200 have signed the petition and another 150 have sent in hardship testimonials.

“The flexibility and adaptability of all students during this time is a testament in itself of academic success and resilience that warrants a high grade,” the email states. “Student health and safety should be our priority during this difficult time, and I believe that this is the most equitable solution.”

UT Austin’s petition offered similar sentiments.

“We recognize that COVID-19 is impacting everyone and their families right now. We hope that a Double-A system can also alleviate some of the pressures from an administrative standpoint during this pandemic,” it states.

Asked to weigh in, higher education watchdog Mark Pulliam called demands for straight As disingenuous.

“Before this crisis, many students complained about having to attend class. Now they moan about the ‘challenge’ of online instruction, as if they don’t spend most of their waking hours online already,” he told The College Fix.

“Their ‘hardship’ pales next to prior generations who attended college at night, while working full time, during wars and depressions, with rationing of food and gas, or on the G.I. Bill while supporting a family.”

MORE: Many universities refuse to reduce spring tuition costs as classes move online

IMAGE: Alex Millos / Shutterstock

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor of The College Fix. She previously worked as a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for a decade in Southern California, and prior to that held editorial positions at The Weekly Standard, Washington Times and FrontPageMagazine. She is also a Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship recipient and has contributed to National Review.

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