A plurality of Emory undergraduate students surveyed by College Council (CC) prefer a “Double-A” grading system over the current optional pass-fail system, according to preliminary results from a survey sent out on April 14.
The survey, which has received over 1,326 responses as of April 15, asks respondents to rank their preferred grading schemes against the current optional pass-fail system: a “4.0 Pass-No Credit” system, a universal pass-fail system, a grading floor system or a “Double-A” system.
The survey reflects student concerns over possible inequities that the optional-pass fail system promotes. Under the current system, disadvantaged students facing financial or mental hardship are predisposed to opt for such grading, which would leave an “S” or “U” on their transcript.
Under a “Double-A” grading system, students would receive either an A or A- as determined by the class instructor. A “4.0 Pass-No Credit” system provides students with a 4.0 grade point average if they pass a class or removes the class from their transcript if they fail.
Outgoing CC President Jacob Hicks (18Ox, 20C) announced in an April 15 general body meeting that the top two issues that students said they have been struggling with are mental health and home responsibilities. A full summary from CC is expected to be produced within the next few days, according to Hicks.
Of the respondents, an estimated 1,000 students are from Emory College of Arts and Sciences, with 200 from the Goizueta Business School and 200 from Oxford College. The survey was initially only sent to Emory College students. Around 25% identified as first-generation students and 33% as low-income.
Discussion among CC legislators about grading systems picked up after Emory Young Democratic Socialists of America, the Recognizing, Empowering, and Affirming Latinas (REAL) Conference and FemmeBeat created a petition advocating for a “Double-A” grading or “4.0 Pass-No Credit” system. The petition opened on March 29 and garnered 2,368 signatures.
CC plans to send the results of the survey to the University administration and to the student body, and will include a more complex set of statistics, such as a student demographic breakdown. However, Hicks told the Wheel that he remains apprehensive about Emory’s capability to make any changes to the current grading system.
“The impression that we’ve seen is that the most advantageous systems, preferred by students for obvious reasons, might not be within the bounds of Emory’s accrediting body,” Hicks said. “At some point it is a question of what Emory is allowed to do, not what the administration wants.”
During the general body meeting, students weighed in on the survey and its desired implications.
Shantell Dasilva (19Ox, 21C) told the Wheel that she is currently working night shifts at Amazon to support her family. In the CC general body meeting, Dasilva said that low-income students should be able to meet with the members of the Administration responsible for making these decisions. Dasilva was also a co-organizer of the online petition to change the grading system.
“I feel like there are a lot of people in bubbles who don’t understand why this is so crucial to us,” Dasilva said. “I would love to be able to tell my story — why this is important to me.”
Dasilva said that she is also part of a first-generation and low-income student group chat that is thinking about making a web series, or collection of videos where those directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can share their stories.
Brotherhood of Afrocentric Men Historian and Emory NAACP Chief of Staff Jery Villaman (23C) said that he knows students who are working full time while balancing school and financial issues at home, and is unsure if the survey will make a difference.
“The students who can work for A’s probably don’t have to work full time,” Villaman said. “Whether it be 10% or 50% advocating for universal pass-fail, those students should not be left behind.”
Under the University’s current grading system, students can change their classes to a pass-fail grading basis until April 27, after which they can petition on a case-by-case basis. Classes taken pass-fail this semester will also count toward major and minor requirements, as well as general education requirements.
“There already is a set policy, but it is not set in stone and it is likely there will be slight changes to how grading is conducted,” Hicks said. “I want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to push for what students need and I think the first step is having that data.”