From Where We Are

Stressed students lead charge for flexible grading with online classes

Prior to the announcement from President Folt and Provost Zukoski this afternoon, students fought for Pass/Fail grading options similar to what was offered in the Spring 2020 semester.

To calm fears that COVID would have a “second wave” in the winter months, USC moved the start of the Fall 2020 semester up one week earlier back in July. This move would lower the potential of students bringing the virus back to campus after Thanksgiving Travel. When the University later announced the majority of classes would be held online, the shortened schedule remained. Now, as Himani Pangal reports, students are noticing faults with the condensed calendar, and advocating for more flexible grading.


More than five thousand students have already signed the petition. It says in part:

“We are tackling racial inequality… an upcoming election… record-breaking fires … and the added pressure of a shortened semester... that makes everything dense and allows for no breaks for students to decompress and compose themselves.”

The petition asks the USC administration to allow any student… to take any class…. pass/no pass…. Like the school did allow last semester. It says, “The world we are living in right now is not normal and our grading system should reflect that.”

Students started the petition and then University Student Government got involved USG Senator Max Gomez wants the school to lead in taking care of its students He wants USC this semester to allow any student to take any class pass/no pass. And Gomez thinks the school should say,

[SOUND] “I’m listening to our strong government. I’m listening to the student body.”

Gomez says the issue is larger than just grade point average and that USC should say

[SOUND] “I’m respecting the circumstance of the world and ensuring basically the welfare of mental health and, you know, continued academic success of our student body.”

A student body that already has many people on edge... students say they’re burned out. The work is too much says Junior Emma Case

[SOUND] “Already it’s like harder to learn on Zoom. And then they condense the semester which means that Professors are trying to fit in their entire syllabus before Thanksgiving, in less weeks. So it actually just like leads to more work on top of the fact that we’re already like in a harder learning environment.”

If you have thoughts on what grading options should be this semester, USG wants to hear from you, says Senator Max Gomez.

[SOUND] "You know, your voice is necessary for this fight for making this campus and this academic environment more accessible, more fair...And so we really need you guys to engage with us on this so we can help out and fight. "

Fight On…. takes on new meanings when you’ve got to learn online! You can access the petition and add your input to it on the USG Instagram page

We have reached out to USC Administration for comment on this issue. If we hear back from them we will update this story.

For Annenberg Media, I’m Himani Pangal.


UPDATE: Following our coverage,USC President Carol Folt announced students WILL have the option to choose pass/no pass or a letter grade in their classes. It it is unclear at the moment whether this will include all courses, or just some. Students have this option through November 13th, the last day of classes. They also can drop a class up until that date.