As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to impact communities, schools are seeking out ways they can assist their students while maintaining a quality education.
Officials recently announced the opportunity for Shippensburg University students to choose the pass/fail grading option for the fall 2020 semester
According to an email sent last week by Provost Tom Ormond, the option will allow students to replace any grade, “A, A-, B, B-, C+ and C” with “Pass.” “D” will be replaced with “Pass*.”
A follow-up email also announced the extension of the withdrawal period for all fall 2020 courses to Dec. 8, which is a few days after the end of finals week. Students can save their GPA by withdrawing from a course, receiving a “W” instead of a failing grade that drives down their average.
Personally, I think officials offering this grading system again is mostly beneficial. However, (this is not going to be popular with my peers) I have some reservations with the option.
In January 2020, SU students returned to what they thought would be a normal spring semester. Little did we know we were all in for a wild ride. After leaving campus for spring break, our classrooms changed from a room in the Dauphin Humanities Center to our living rooms. Regulations created to contain the coronavirus uprooted any sense of routine we had.
Students were thrown into less-than-ideal academic and personal situations halfway through the spring semester. While some remained in local off-campus housing with consistent internet connection and little interruptions, others went home where family members gathered amid the shutdown. A student’s home may not always offer a quality learning environment. Perhaps it is a lack of technological resources, a colicky younger sibling or going to work as an “essential worker” to help support one’s family. The conditions last semester were difficult; there is no discounting that fact.
There were a lot of elements factoring into a student’s ability to complete work last semester. We did not have a choice to attend virtually — it was the only option. Students who did not want an online education found themselves logging into Zoom instead of sitting in a classroom. The pass/fail option was necessary because students did not know what they were getting into at the beginning of the semester.
But in June, when officials said students would have the opportunity to return to campus, we were given an option. Granted, we would not be returning to the campus we once knew. We would return to a campus filled with tents, temperature checks, hand sanitizer and limited capacity classrooms. Nonetheless, we had a vague idea of what the semester would look like.
My concern with the pass/fail option this semester arises from those who will choose to abuse the opportunity. For many students, this year has been difficult.
From academics to our personal lives, we have had to endure a lot. These students, who are continuing to try to succeed in their classes, deserve the opportunity to save their GPAs if their best right now is not equivalent to their best last year. Students must give themselves a break and understand that things are very different now than last year. The ability for students to choose the pass/fail option gives them a little bit of control in a world filled with uncertainty.
But we as students must also keep trying. I do not think students should rely on this option. We have to work hard and make the best of what we are given. The pass/fail option should not be a “free pass” to skip classes and do the bare minimum.
Most of our professors are working hard to offer a quality educational experience in these uncertain times. We must maintain our efforts through the end of the semester.
I, like my peers, am grateful for officials to extend this opportunity. But I will also continue to work and attend my classes in efforts to earn the best grade I can under these conditions. I urge my fellow students to treat the pass/fail option as an “in case of emergency” option; do not soley rely on it.