By Amanda Hernández and Chloe Goldberg
Almost 80 percent of University of Maryland undergraduates took at least one class pass/fail last semester, according to university data acquired through a Maryland Public Information Act request.
The university offered students a pass/fail option in the spring after classes shifted online mid-semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. About 44 percent of undergraduates took at least two classes pass/fail, while about 24 percent took at least three classes pass/fail, according to the data.
The average GPA among undergraduates was 3.30 during the spring semester — an increase from the previous two semesters when the average GPA was 3.21, according to the data. When a student takes a class pass/fail and passes it, there is no impact to their GPA.
“Over 50 percent of the student body in the spring wished to acknowledge needing … that academic relief for them to be successful for the semester,” said Alysa Conway, the academic affairs director for the Student Government Association and advocate for pass/fail grading this semester. “[The data is] just very alarming.”
This semester, however, the university is not implementing a pass/fail system like in the spring. Last month, Provost Mary Ann Rankin announced the decision, writing that it could leave students unprepared for higher-level coursework or impact post-graduation plans.
The decision has prompted widespread criticism from students, who say the pandemic has brought unexpected hardships and disrupted their learning experiences. Instead, the university extended the deadline to withdraw from classes by three weeks.
“It’s just not … an appropriate answer and of an appropriate stance for there to be nothing done to help students … when students are drowning right now,” said Conway, a senior government and politics and public policy major. “We can’t just let them drown.”
The SGA passed a resolution condemning the decision, a group of students created a survey to gauge how the pandemic has affected students and community members blasted UMD administration at a town hall.
Despite the steady stream of criticism, university President Darryll Pines told The Diamondback Monday that the decision is final.
“We sense the pain of the students,” Pines said. “But we have made a final decision that we are not going to allow pass/fail this semester.”
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article stated that the average undergraduate GPA increased by 0.9 in the spring from the previous two semesters. The average GPA increased by 0.09. This story has been updated.