Remote learning brings questions: Administrators consider pass/fail grading and refunds for room and board

Administrators consider pass/fail grading and refunds for room and board

The COVID-19 pandemic has left some grocery stores empty like the one above being patronized by an alumnus, while Xavier’s response has filled students with questions about what moving entirely to remote learning will mean.

Xavier University administrators are facing a bundle of questions after deciding on March 12 to move to a remote learning format for the rest of the spring semester. These questions range from uncertainty about how the decision was made to whether the university will offer the option for pass or fail grading and refunds. The decision to move to remote learning was made by the COVID-19 Response Team.

The team began monitoring the spread of the virus in early January. The task force, which is led by Vice President of Risk Management Jeff Coleman, includes a handful of administrators, including Chief Student Affairs Officer Dave Johnson, Xavier Police Chief Rob Warfel, TriHealth Associate David Rigdon and more. The team is a subgroup of the Campus Emergency Response Team (CERT) which has formed task forces in response to other viruses, such as the Ebola virus and Swine Flu, but has never responded as comprehensively.

“We’ve never had as robust of a response because we’ve never faced as big of a challenge,” Johnson said. CERT makes recommendations to Father Michael Graham, president, on how the university should act, but Graham makes the ultimate decision. According to Johnson, the rapidly changing situation prevented thorough communication with student leadership as the pace of action and decision making altered when Governor Mike
DeWine recommended universities move to remote learning on March 10, and the task force realized the consequences of a temporary switch to remote learning.

“By (March 12), we were looking to the future and we realized that it was really better to probably make a more comprehensive and long-term decision, and we decided to move to remote learning for the rest of the semester,” Johnson said. However, this decision came as surprise to all in the Xavier community, with the exception of the task force and some other administrators, as faculty, students and staff were informed of the
decision at the same time.

“Stakes were high, and we wanted to get all the information out to everyone absolutely as quickly as possible,” Johnson said. This quick change to classes and campus has led to uncertainty in the student body regarding what this means for grading. In particular, many students wonder whether this would mean Xavier will offer a pass or fail option instead of letter grades.

On Tuesday, March 24, a student started a petition on to have the university provide the option to pf pass or fail grading for the spring semester.

“These changes in the removal of face-to-face instructions and the relocation of students back home have created various barriers to maintaining the same academic footings,” the petition reads. “…Due to the circumstances of each individual student, Xavier University’s leaders should consider the students’ proposal to provide the OPTION of pass/fail grading for the Spring 2020 semester.”

As of midnight on March 26, the petition had received 2,461 signatures.
Johnson said that the conversation is happening among academic administrators, but that ultimately, it may be up to the instructors to decide.

“One mechanism by which some faculty may well choose to also be supportive is to offer pass/fail for some students,” Johnson said. “My hunch is that it won’t be across the board, one way or the other, because different academic programs are very different.”

Despite this uncertainty, Johnson said he believes there will be some kind of decision made in the upcoming week, but it may not be a campus-wide option. “We’re going to have to wait and see what happens at Xavier, but it probably won’t be a binary this or that,” Johnson said.

Another concern that students may have at this time is in regard to refunds for room and board. The university is currently examining this question and Johnson hopes to have a definite answer to send to the community by April 17. “We know that’s on people’s minds and that’s on our minds,” Johnson said. “There’s certainly a willingness and determination to do something for students.”

While there is consideration for refunds for room and board, Johnson said that there will not be a refund in tuition for students, despite the sudden shift to remote learning as opposed to in person classes.

“Certainly everyone regrets the shift in the format,” Johnson said. “Nonetheless, the university is still doing its best to deliver against the promised content. It’s just in a new medium.” This new medium extends beyond classes, and includes many campus resources, such as
counseling services and peer management, which will also be held in online formats.

While this semester has changed, and the summer semester will be affected, the fall semester will go on as planned and Johnson is excited to see the Xavier community continue to support each other, even if from a distance.

“I lament that the semester and on campus experience ended when it did and how it did,” Johnson said. “I think spring is a magic time on campus, and I will miss not sharing it with students. I will miss that students aren’t sharing it with their peers in person. I am very eager for us all to give it
our all to build community online and to stay connected and to be creative and committed to our community even from afar. I think we can pull it off. But I’m really excited to getting back to being together on campus.”

More information can be found on the Xavier website at and in the pages that follow.