Students petition for a universal pass

By Alex Dyson 

Maija Peterson (’21), president of the Coalition of Multi-Racial and Bi-Racial Students, and Mimi Duncan (’21), president of the Black Student Union, worked together to petition for the adoption of a Universal Pass grading system at Puget Sound this semester.

AD: Why a universal pass? 

MJ: I follow this student from Yale, and she posted about the No Fail Yale movement. I sent it to Mimi, and I was like, “Okay, let’s get this going, let’s figure this out”… I think that we just did this because at that point there wasn’t a grading plan out for the school yet. It was before the credit/ no credit came out. I was scared to come home, because I don’t have Wifi at my house. There are just so many other situations that come with asking everyone to do their schooling online. There’s so many scenarios. 

MD: I think that we were just hearing from people in the clubs that we’re a part of, and our friends, or family members, or people outside of the campus community, what they were going through, and at the end, they’d say “… and I have a test I need to think about”. It just felt like, no. People should not have to prioritize their education over their wellbeing, or their mental health, or their families. That was what was pushing us to write it, just so that there would be a safety net for these students who had these external factors that they couldn’t control.

AD: What was it like putting the petition out, and how was it received? 

MD: It was kind of scary. Definitely a little nerve racking. We finished the document at around 1:30 or 2:00AM… So we publish it, we post it everywhere. We did a petition too, wrote up exactly why we’re doing this, and posted it onto Facebook on the Puget Collective page. I’d say the response was pretty good, right? 

MP: With all the signatures we got — we had no idea that we were going to get so many signatures. The fact that half the university signed it. We were like, “Oh, we’ll get 100 signatures and then send it to the administration.” Then we kept getting more. We were like, “our friends will sign this, no big deal”. I’m trying to pack up my room, pack up my car to go home, and my friends are like, “Do you know you have 1,000 signatures on it already?” 

MD: It was a lot. We also received some messages and questions. We were met with some things we didn’t know how to answer. We also wanted to point out that this was our first time doing something like this, and so all responses are something that we want to hear, because we want to know how this fits every student.  That’s been the challenge for me. Not knowing how to, or trying to find a way to assist people. 

AD: What was that feedback? 

MD: A lot of questions we got were people worried about their GPAs — them needing to raise their GPAs. That’s all really understandable. But you know… we’re both sophomores so grad school isn’t something that’s on our minds right now. So we’re still kind of working on that, working through those bugs, talking to seniors  and seeing what’s going to benefit them the most. That’s been the biggest hurdle. It’s also allowed for us to understand where people are coming from more. 

AD: What’s the status of the petition now? 

MP: Talking about this with the administration and constantly having to be answering everyone’s questions… it’s hard to do during a pandemic… No Fail Yale were asking people to skip their virtual classes, and that’s not something I really wanted to be pushing students to do. Now’s the time to be going to class! 

MD: Right now, it’s not over, but we’re not trying to pressure people as well. We’ve had people reach out who definitely want to help out and work on it, so maybe not paused. But she’s on the back burner

AD: Perhaps advocating for a universal pass grading system won’t be your work in the coming year. But I predict you’ll still be busy, because COVID-19 doesn’t appear to be disappearing soon. 

MD: No, she’ll be here for a minute. 

AD: She will be here for a minute. Knowing that, what should we be cognizant of? 

MP: My attention has shifted to focusing on my Native community. We’re really, really suffering out here. The Spanish flu greatly affected the Indigenous population of the United States, so we’re being impacted right now too. We’re seeing a big, disproportionate hit to communities of color… There’s a lot of uncertainty about what we’re gonna be facing when we head back. 

MD: Donate your money, if you can. Donate to communities of color who will be suffering. If you are in a position to donate money, you should do that. 

AD: What do you feel like students are going to need to be successful moving forward? 

MP: Counseling. As we’ve been saying for a while, CHWS needs more funding, and I think that after this, who knows what we’re going to be coming back to? Who knows what our friends are going to be dealing with? What is the new normal going to look like? Disadvantaged communities are under new types of pressure, and there is a lot of uncertainty going on right now. I’m just hoping for good community support. 

MD: I think we just need the support. Just support people.