A petition to make University of Wisconsin classes pass/fail this semester has made its way around the UW campus.
According to the petition, students are calling for a COVID-19 pass/fail option because of the pandemic causing learning barriers like not being able to create study groups in person and worsened mental health as a result of online classes.
UW announced a pass/fail option for students during the 2019-2020 spring semester due to the pandemic, but have not done the same for this semester.
Associated Students of Madison chair Matthew Mitnick stated the student council body endorsed a letter signed by Mitnick and other Big Ten student body presidents that called for a cohesive pass/fail or satisfactory/unsatisfactory option for students — a policy Mitnick said was very similar to the one UW adopted for students last semester.
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The letter cited statistics from various Big Ten schools that demonstrated the detrimental effects of the pandemic on the mental health and academic abilities of students.
According to the letter, a survey from the University of Minnesota Student Senate found that 68% of students feared for their academic success if classes were online. Purdue University’s Student Government found that 63% of their students believe their ability to learn has been negatively affected by online classes.
As a student outside his role as ASM chair, Mitnick agreed with the letter, as well as the petition. He mentioned an example of how in-person classes are stressful for him and how the number of students in his class has decreased throughout the course of the semester as students got sick or preferred to stay home.
“If you are in a situation where you have to take an in-person class and you get infected with COVID-19, it can really impact your studies, your ability to focus and your study space,” Mitnick said.
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Mitnick also said he believes classes last semester had a lot more leniency with students than this semester. Classes are graded as normal, even though circumstances from the spring semester to now have not changed, Mitnick said.
Though UW implemented a pass/fail policy last semester, Mitnick stated that in a meeting he attended with UW administration, they were not as supportive of the policy this semester.
“We’re hoping we can change that,” Mitnick said. “It’s still a battle worth fighting.”