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Senate approves student survey, rejects mandatory pass/fail resolution

Student Government Association (SGA) Senate unanimously passed a resolution on April 21 that urges professors to distribute surveys to their courses in order to gauge how students are coping with the shift to online classes. This follows Senate’s failure to pass a resolution urging the College administration to make all courses mandatorily follow a pass/fail or similar grading system the previous week.

Student Alumni Liaison Senator Carrie Sayre ’20 first introduced the idea of the student survey to Senate on April 14 as part of the discussion surrounding the mandatory pass/fail resolution. Several Senators offered their backing for a resolution supporting the survey, which was then voted on the following week.

The resolution specified that the survey should be sent out by individual professors based on their respective course syllabi and guidelines, and that the survey should be distributed by April 29. It also urged that faculty use the results of the individual surveys to alter their course policies to reflect student responses.

Sayre introduced the resolution to ensure that policies enacted regarding course grading are done in a way that accurately reflects the sentiments of all students. Sayre also noted that, because grading is often managed at a course-by-course level, it is more reflective of student concerns to have each professor distribute their own course surveys.

The issue now falls to the discretion of professors to disburse the survey to each of their class sections. Sayre said that students will also be notified of the resolution so that they can hold their professors accountable for sending it before April 29.

Between these two Senate meetings, a survey was sent to each dorm asking for student feedback about concerns during the transition to online classes. 

“A couple freshman halls were in support, but by a wide majority of anyone above first year was not in support of the resolution,” Elie Nederloe ’21, Chair of Inter-Hall Council said.  

The result of this survey led Sayre, who was initially skeptical of the support for mandatory pass/fail, to introduce the class-specific survey. Nederloe and other Senators offered their support for this idea.

“We thought it would be best to have professors send out surveys asking about whether their class is too much and every student should fill those out,” Nederloe said. “We felt this was a better approach because some professors are being more lenient than others.”

Hoyme Hall Senator Lila Graham ’23, who started a petition to support a mandatory shift to pass/fail grading that received over 650 signatures, introduced a resolution on April 14 to urge the administration to implement said mandatory pass/fail or similar grading system for the spring semester.

After an extended period of discussion Senate voted to strike the first of three clauses in this resolution, which had urged the College administration to implement a mandatory alternative grading policy. The resolution failed to pass with the two remaining clauses.

Students from across campus tuned in to the Senate livestream on April 14 via SGA’s Instagram, engaging in robust conversations in the comments section. Many of the conversations revolved around whether or not mandatory pass/fail is beneficial for all students and if the College has successfully handled the current situation surrounding course grading.  

Before Senate engaged with these resolutions, St. Olaf’s Emergency Academic Committee (EAC) instituted several changes to academic policies following the shift to online classes. The committee extended the deadline for students to make a spring semester course Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) to the final day of classes and notified students that S/U grades will not count in GPA calculations in the first round of temporary alterations communicated to the student body on March 18.

EAC outlined changes to academic suspension and probation, determination of honors and degree requirement exceptions in a second email to the student body on April 13. The committee also waived two policies that required students to complete 24 graded, non-S/U credits and that no more than six credits could be taken S/U.

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