Student newspaper editorial boards call for ‘lower standards’ during the coronavirus

A number of editorial boards at student newspapers across the country are calling for "lower standards" to grading because of the coronavirus.

The editorial boards have suggested automatic pass/fail, delayed assignment deadlines, and even postponing midterms as some of the changes.

As colleges and universities have changed grading systems because of the coronavirus, several editorial boards at student newspapers across the country are calling for further action to “lower” academic standards, postpone deadlines and exams, and “make some finals optional.”  

At Rice University, for example, The Rice Thresher editorial board is asking the university administration to “go easier” on students. 

“Please go easier on us — pass/fail alone is not enough,” the editorial board wrote. “The administration has the ability to require — not ask or encourage, but require — that professors lighten their course loads.”

Editorial boards at Princeton University and Stanford University’s student newspapers, The Daily Princetonian and The Stanford Daily, agreed.

[RELATED: Harvard moves to ‘emergency’ grading during coronavirus pandemic]

The Daily Princetonian endorsed a petition calling on the school to “reevaluate” midterm exams for the semester. The editorial board further claimed that the coronavirus, coupled with a series of university decisions, “compounded” student stress before midterm exams.

The editorial board at The Stanford Daily similarly called for final exams to be made optional and for assignment deadlines to be postponed. 

“We are disappointed that the administration has left decisions about end-quarter exams squarely in the hands of individual instructors,” the authors wrote, before recommending solutions.

“First, in order to allow more time for take-home finals, papers, and projects, the administration should postpone the deadline for assignments to be turned in and for grades to be reported. Postponing these deadlines would give instructors leeway to allow students more time to complete take-home finals, papers and projects.”

[RELATED: Harvard to professors: Just ‘trust’ students not to cheat on exams]

Other Student papers at schools like Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania argued optional pass/fail grading systems were “not enough.” Instead, they said schools must institute a universal system that would transition all classes to a pass/fail grading format. 

“A universal policy would account for the uneven effect the crisis has on Penn students, the ability to apply for post-graduate programs without penalization, and the variability in how professors will adapt to this new medium of teaching,” the editorial board at The Daily Pennsylvanian wrote. 

The Harvard Crimson argued a universal system was “the most equitable grading option.”

“At a time when our lives and those of our friends and families are at stake — when a sense of normalcy is all but lost — it is callous to expect students to maintain their usual academic attention,” the editors wrote. “Disproportionately hurting already imperiled students, it would exaggerate inequality in our community and threaten students’ capacity to focus on their wellbeing.”

In addition, The Crimson dismissed concerns from students who might have preferred a traditional letter grading system by stating there are “more pressing concerns about equity.” 

[RELATED: Harvard moves to ‘emergency’ grading during coronavirus pandemic]

Many editorial boards, like the university administrations that instituted the initial grading changes, cited privilege as reasons for the call for more changes. The Rice Thresher editorial board claimed that changes are needed because “students with the most privilege” would perform better with normal grading standards. 

The Daily Pennsylvanian added that it would be “unfair to allow those in privileged environments to take classes that boost their GPAs while some of their peers face a number of serious obstacles.”

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