Students start petition to move spring semester grades to pass/fail


Juliana Knot

With an initial goal of 1000 signatures, the petition has garnered over 1400.

Amidst the COVID–19 outbreak, a petition has been filed with the Calvin administration to allow students the option to choose between a letter grade and pass/fail. The petition started after the switch to online classes due to the closing of campus.

The goal of the petition was to get 1,000 signatures—just under one third of the undergraduate student body. The goal was met in the first 24 hours and currently has over 1,400 signatures. The petition is not unique to Calvin. UC Berkeley and both University of Wisconsin Madison and Stout, and many others have made the switch due to student concerns and petitions. 

The petition was started by Adrian Poh, a current junior. Poh is an international student from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Poh explained that the motivation to start the petition stemmed from his own experience during these trying times. Kuala Lumpur has over 700 COVID–19 cases, which has increased Poh’s stress in addition to his schoolwork. “This combined with the stress that we have to maintain a good academic standing is overbearing,” said Poh. He stated it’s unreasonable to expect students to meet the same level of academic standing that they would under normal circumstances. 

The petition was originally Poh’s idea, but his friend and fellow student, Josiah Balona, helped write and proofread the draft. Balona is also an international student and shared similar concerns with Poh about the added stress of dealing with COVID–19 while having to maintain strong academic standing. Balona said, “…COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. However, that doesn’t mean we students have to keep struggling when we can help each other out.” 

According to the Dean of Students, John Witte, faculty and administration had considered the pass/fail option and concurrently with the petition. Witte said, “Our faculty and staff have been very attuned to the issues facing our students,” and further explained that hearing the voice of the students and their concerns is great input for the decision making.  

The petition has been sent to the Calvin administration. According to the Vice Chair Professor William Van Vugt, faculty senate will be voting on an alternative grading system Tuesday, April 7. Van Vugt is filling for Professor Jolene Vos-Camy