Faculty Senate discusses P/D/F option, Blackboard at senate meeting

Example of new Blackboard provided to the Faculty Senate by Juliana Ortolani.

Michael J. Collins

Faculty Senators passed a motion Thursday to support a Pass/D/Fail option for this semester as well as changes to Blackboard during their monthly meeting.

Senate support for a P/D/F system was passed with a vote of 38 in favor to 9 against.

The vote follows a formal request submitted by the Student Government Association for a P/D/F option to the Office of the Provost on Oct. 27, which was rejected.

SGA President Garrett Edmonds, alongside several students and faculty, addressed the Senate to advocate passage of the motion.

“This resolution came about in a way I’ve never seen before,” Edmonds said. “I’ve never witnessed a coalition so powerful and so large […] because of the response from students this year.”

A petition started by Edmonds calling for the option has garnered over 3,500 signatures in 3 days, with many comments citing the difficulty of online classes and stress.

Supporters pointed to mid-semester changes to instruction made in some classes as well as the increasing stress and dangers presented by COVID-19.

Provost Cheryl Stevens and Associate Provost Robert Hale stated in a letter to SGA President Garrett Edmonds that students received adequate support during the fall semester, unlike in spring when the university was forced to transition to online classes.

Stevens and Hale also feared “unintended consequences” as a result, citing issues in regards to accreditation and some students in the spring requesting the option be overturned in order to raise their GPA.

“While overall GPAs are important, we worry that by instituting P/D/F at this late date, students with Bs who might earn As and students with Cs who might earn Bs—this is the main group the P/D/F benefits—might simply give up and settle for a pass grade instead of continuing to plug away and learn the material,” Stevens and Hale said.

Other matters included planned changes to the layout of Blackboard taking place Dec. 14.

Dr. Marko Dumančić, director for the Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning, said the navigation page will look “slightly different” but courses should not be affected.

Michael J. Collins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MJCollinsNews.