Don’t Fail Me Now, Student Senate approves pass/fail option

Graphic by Matthew Muir | Copy Desk Chief

By Ava Dunwoody | Staff Writer

Baylor Student Senate voted 37-2 in favor of a pass/fail option bill for the fall 2020 semester on Thursday. This means the bill for the student option to elect pass/fail on their transcripts will be passed from the senate to the vice provost of undergraduate education for further evaluation before a decision is made.

Authored by North Richland Hills sophomore senator Emmalyn Oscarson, the Don’t Fail Me Now bill (number SR 68-XX) will allow students the option to select to pass/fail for up to three standard graded courses. If students do choose to select this option, a grade of a C- or above will be converted to “pass” and a grade of a D or below to “fail.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented stress on college students and this bill aims to alleviate some of that stress,” Oscarson said in her opening statement. “Even if you don’t see yourself electing this measure, there are still many people on Baylor’s campus who are in need of the support.”

The bill said the challenges of the pandemic are affecting the academic performance and mental well-being of Baylor students and that a pass/fail grading policy would alleviate unnecessary stress from students’ lives.

The bill also cited other universities, like the University of Texas at Austin, the College of William and Mary, Ohio State University and Southern Connecticut State University and how they have adopted this policy for the semester.

Fair Oaks junior senator Addison Knight referenced several student-led petitions for a pass/fail option that have circulated around campus gaining over 6,000 cumulative signatures. She said she doesn’t know any student who is working at full capacity because of stress.

New Braunfels senior senator Tate Korpi, legislative secretary, agreed, and said he has been in contact with senators from different Big 12 schools who are also working on similar legislation.

“This isn’t just a Baylor issue. This is a nationwide issue,” Korpi said. “No matter how hard Baylor is going to try and make this a normal semester with normal access to full recourses, it’s not going to happen. I don’t want students to have to be penalized because they don’t have the same amount of access to resources because things have moved online.”

Some cons of the bill were presented by Little Rock sophomore senator Ginger Gordon, academic affairs chair, who said some might worry bad students will use the pass/fail option to hide behind lack of effort. Another potential con, she said, would be that pass/fail may not be reflective of how hard a student worked.

However, when the time came for the con section of the senate debate, there were no comments and a motion was passed to suspend the rules and end on an unbalanced debate. From there, the student senate voted to pass the Don’t Fail Me Now bill 37-2 votes.

The bill will now be forwarded to Dr. Wesley Null, vice provost for undergraduate education, Dr. Matt Burchett, director of student activities, and Dr. Kevin P. Jackson, vice president for student life, for further discussion. This does not mean the pass/fail option will immediately go into effect, however, it does continue the process toward this decision.

“Many students have struggled with their mental and physical health and allowing Pass/Fail allows them to reprioritize their health,” Gordon said. “This is also optional, which means it’s flexible. … Struggles caused by the pandemic should not have an impact on a student’s future. Their GPA should not be hurt just because of this one semester.”