After a proposal that would have given students the option to be graded on a pass/fail scale was rejected by Southern’s academic administration, some students are now campaigning for an adjusted grading scale. Southern acknowledged student feedback on its Instagram story earlier this week and said it hopes to have an update by Friday afternoon.
The proposed scale adjustment is patterned after one recently implemented at Oakwood University, where 85 and 70 percent are the minimum grades needed to receive As and Bs, respectively. A 50 percent is enough for a C, and the only way students can fail a class is by not attending. Plus and minus distinctions are also eliminated with this scale.
When Oakwood posted on Instagram that it would adopt this scale, dozens of Southern students began sharing the decision on social media and called for Southern to do the same. On Saturday night, advocate and proposer of the pass/fail campaign, Luis Moreno, turned the buzz into a movement with a video uploaded to his Instagram page (@realluism). In the video, he explained his thoughts on the decision and asked students to email Vice President of Student Development Dennis Negron. According to Moreno, Negron recommended to him that Southern students could respectfully email him sharing their personal struggles with the impacts of COVID-19. The video featured several student-leaders, including current Student Association (SA) President Mark Galvez who shared his struggle keeping up with school on 40-hour workweeks at his new job.
On Sunday morning, Galvez expanded his role in the campaign by posting an “open letter to administration” on his own Instagram (@markgtv). The post reiterated the same elements as Moreno’s video, ultimately also encouraging students to respectfully email Negron. As of Thursday morning, the video and post had received over 2,500 views and 1,300 likes, respectively.
According to Negron, he responded to 118 emails regarding the situation on Sunday alone. By Monday afternoon, he had received several more but was unable to effectively answer them due to a lack of internet access caused by a tornado that hit the Collegedale area on Sunday night. Negron said most emails were not in regards to the proposed grading system, but instead expressed disagreement with the pass/fail rejection. A very small minority showed support for the decision. Another small group did not take a side but just informed him that they are praying for administrators.
“Some of the situations described by some students are truly heart-rending,” Negron said.
Moreno said that the emails will serve as proof of student struggles in an upcoming meeting where he and at least two other students will discuss potential solutions with the administration. The meeting was originally scheduled for Monday but has since been postponed due to the tornado damage that has caused classes to be cancelled April 13-17. Additionally, in an April 14 video addressed to the Southern community, President David Smith said he will be meeting with Galvez with the same topic in mind. According to Galvez, the meeting will take place tomorrow morning, April 17.
In an interview, incoming SA president Sheryl Kambuni who was also in Moreno’s video said she is not supporting the proposal just because of her future position, but as a regular student.
“When I ran, I promised to be a voice for the student body,” Kambuni said. “More than that, the stress that I see students going through is human, and I hurt for and with them.”
Similar to Kambuni, Galvez expressed that he empathizes with students who are struggling under the impacts of coronavirus and spoke on behalf of students who do not have the privilege to focus on school.
“If you have the privilege of having a home, rent paid, food made, utilities paid, insurance secure, reliable WiFi, gas in your car, you, my dear friend, are privileged. I have emails from students that are suffering like you wouldn’t believe,” Galvez said. “Our friends are unemployed. Our own classmates are seeing their parents depressed. We have households that have run out of money and [only] rely on prayer. How can you focus on an environment this tense? How can you perform at your very best when you cannot find peace and quiet?”