Ivy League students demand laxed grading system to alleviate 'stress'

Students at Princeton University are petitioning the college to move to a Pass/D/Fail grading system for all spring 2020 courses.

Supporters say it would help alleviate some of the "stress" students are experiencing as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Students at Princeton University are calling on their college to implement a universal Pass/D/Fail grading system for all spring 2020 classes. This comes after widespread student support for a mandate to “reevaluate the weight of Princeton U midterms.” 

The Daily Princetonian Editorial Board is leading the charge. On Saturday, the board published an editorial calling on the university to consider the P/D/F grading mandate.  

[Related: Harvard, MIT students & faculty defiant amid colleges' coronavirus commands]

The board is composed of 11 Princeton University students who say that this step will alleviate the "stress" placed on students as classes have moved online for the duration of the semester. 

According to the university, students may request a Pass/D/Fail grading system in as many as four of their classes per semester. They can request a grade as such between the seventh and ninth weeks of classes. Additionally, this university policy says that “pass” is considered as grades A+ through C-,  a “D” grade signifies “low passing,” and a “fail” grade designates “very low performance.” 

This policy was instituted before the call from students to allow all of their classes to allow this system for the remainder of this semester. 

Despite this prior policy, the Daily Princetonian Editorial Board “holds that the University should move all classes to a P/D/F-only grading scale.” They note that because the University is instructing students to move off-campus unless they meet certain criteria, the “central-benefit” of on-campus living is lost. 

[Related: Ohio State students demand refunds after college kicks them out of dorms]

Prior to the Board’s call to action, students circulated a petition, which has amassed more than 3,200 signatures, calling. The petition states, “We, the student body, respectfully ask that the University considers reevaluating the weight of this semester's midterms or postponing them.” 

A subsequent petition, calling for universal P/D/F grading, has not gained as much support, however. It has fewer than 200 signatories.  

Citing academic equity, students have even taken to Twitter to express their desire for moving to a P/D/F grading scale. One student tweeted, “In this trying time, mandatory P/D/F is the only way to ensure academic equity for all Princeton students.” 


The managing editor at the Daily Princetonian, Ivy Truong, shared in a tweet, “We urge @Princeton to follow the courageous examples of @smithcollege and @MIT to put their students first. Mandatory pass/D/fail is not a perfect solution, but it's the best way to limit inequities and encourage students, faculty to prioritize themselves.” 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @cam_deckr