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Petition calling on AU to extend pass/fail option surpasses 1,000 signatures

Pass/fail option was extended throughout the spring semester

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on, a separate website created by Eagle staff at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020. Articles from that website have been migrated to The Eagle’s main site and backdated with the dates they were originally published in order to allow readers to access them more easily. 

The American University Black Student Union, AU Black Girls Vote and the AU National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have started a petition urging AU to extend the pass/fail option for courses for the duration of the fall semester.

AU NAACP spearheaded this effort, and the petition was launched on Aug. 24, garnering over 1,000 signatures since then. The petition also called on the University to ensure that final grades are in by Dec.17 and extend the pass/fail declaration deadline to three days after the final publication of grades.

“The country is in more chaos than it was in March, and that is going to have a direct effect on students' ability to perform successfully,” the petition said. “There are many students who are not in the proper conditions to meet the grade expectations they set for themselves before the pandemic. It seems only logical for students to be given the pass/fail option for the semester.”

AU BSU did not respond to a request for comment, and the AU NAACP declined to comment.

With over 200,000 coronavirus deaths across the country, conditions have significantly worsened since the pass/fail option was first granted in the spring. Mackenzie Meadows, president of AU Black Girls Vote, said that the petition was a result of the University leaving many questions unanswered in terms of what the fall semester would look like.

“We conjured up a document that really touched on big points that a lot of students were asking questions about, specifically in regards to how academics will change, as well as where more money can be allocated to students,” Meadows said. “So much money has previously been invested in a lot of trivial items, in my opinion, that could have been easily transferred into an emergency fund.”

Not everyone has equal access to necessities like Wi-Fi, Meadows said, and with many students in different time zones, attending class synchronously presents challenges for some. 

Along with disparate living situations, Meadows said that the virtual fall semester disproportionately affects Black students, and not physically being on campus removes accountability for racist incidents. 

“All racial issues that have occurred on campus are being kept under the rug and the people who are being called out for racial discrimination or racially charged language are not having to be held accountable for this period,” Meadows said. “You’re now cooped up in your house, by yourself, chilling out, taking your classes on Zoom, so you don’t have to be held accountable.”

In March, former provost Dan Myers announced that students could decide to take their courses pass/fail until the last day of classes, hoping that it would “alleviate some stress.” 

Tori B. Powell, a senior in the School of Communication, said that she supports this petition because “circumstances aren’t any less stressful now.” She argues that if anything, they’re worse.

“I live in California, which at a point was one of the hardest-hit states for COVID-19,” Powell said. “My mother is a physician who works in a hospital and she exposes herself to COVID-19 every single day. I'm also a Black woman and have had to not only watch the graphic footage of police brutality affect those that look like me, but I've had to also cover it as a journalist, as well.”

On top of that stress, Powell said that she works 40 hours a week for her remote internship, and with the wildfires and earthquakes that have been occurring in California, she is unable to leave her house because of the air pollution, which has affected her mental health.

“My circumstances aren't unique either,” Powell said. “All of us are going through it and the least we deserve is the option to take our classes pass/fail.” 

AU did not respond for comment.

Kelsey Carolan contributed reporting to this story.

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