Oberlin Students Petition for Elimination of Failing Grades


Students at Oberlin College in Ohio have passed around a petition asking for the college to create a “no-fail mercy period” which would eliminate any failing grades and make a C the lowest possible grade for this semester for the African-American students who chose to miss classes and study time to protest recent deaths at the hands of police.  That petition received 1,300 signatures.

President Marvin Krislov responded to the request by sending out an email letting students know that he and the college’s deans were not going to honor the request, although they did give it serious thought.

“We are in firm agreement that suspending grading protocols is not the way to achieve our shared goal of ensuring that students have every opportunity and resource to succeed,” he wrote.

Students across the country have been participating in demonstrations after the shooting deaths of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland and Michael Brown in St. Louis by police officers, and the choking death of Eric Garner in New York.  Many students have taken part in protests since the late summer, causing them to miss important classes and assignments.

“Administrators should require professors to exercise complete flexibility in what students are saying they can produce academically,” the petition said.

“Students in this moment should have complete access to alternative modes of learning while we process what’s happening. Basically, no student, especially black students and students of color, should be failing a class this semester. A “C” should be the lowest grade students can receive this semester.”

Students were told to discuss their concerns with regards to their ability to complete their work with their professors.

In addition, a memo was sent out to students letting them know that the college would be extending their deadlines for requesting an incomplete for classes and changing letter grades to Pass/No Pass until the last day of finals, writes Karen Farkas for Cleveland.com.  He added that the offices of the Dean of Studies and the Conservatory Associate Dean for Student Academic Affairs will be working with students to ensure that the appeals process considers the impact of these events on the progress of individual students, reports Michael Baldwin for NewsNet5.

“To reiterate: we are firmly committed to supporting students in their health, well-being, and academic success,” Krislov wrote.

He finished by reminding students that a number of offices and resources were available to students to help support them through this time, including the Multicultural Resource Center, Office of the Dean of Students, and ResEd.

Meanwhile, university officials at Harvard, Georgetown and Columbia said that according to their school’s policies already in place, students have the ability to petition to have their exams rescheduled on an individual basis.

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