With the transition to online classes, the glee of spring is fogged by worry and disappointment. Everyone is tasked with premature move-outs and unexpected goodbyes. On top of the strain of life transitions, students also have to work toward an unfamiliar system of online classes. Universities could alleviate this stress by allowing students to opt into a pass/fail grading system.
Duke University has implemented a similar system. Students can choose for their spring 2020 courses to be graded on a pass-fail basis (Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory). Students who would prefer to receive letter grades can make a request with the Registrar’s Office.
Giving students the option of how their grades will be on their record gives them back power that the pandemic took away from them. It gives them an ounce of autonomy over their situation that seems to be lost in every other aspect of life.
Just as the Office of Access and Learning Accommodation grants students lenience based on extenuating circumstances, this situation warrants similar grace from administration.
Given the circumstances, students can’t be expected to perform as usual. Nothing about their situation is normal, so why should universities expect them to be able to act as such?
Many students are displaced from their usual study environment. Forced to move back home or find other living accommodations, students are conducting their academic functions in atypical conditions. The living situations vary in comfort—volume levels, study spaces, level of privacy, etc. Students have lost their way of studying; it is unfair to hold them to the same standards they were held to before.
Another challenge of adjusting to the new online system is the different dynamic of virtual classes. Many students haven’t taken online classes before, and their difficulty acclimating to the new system may be reflected in their performance in the class regardless of their effort. Students did not select and enroll in classes under the understanding of the class requirements that will be made in wake of the new online adjustment. Being blindsided by a new instruction model should not be the reason a student’s GPA falls.
While there may be concerns that this new system will make filing difficult for professors and the registrar’s office, nothing will change in procedure except for the final step of what goes on students’ transcripts.
The desire for this change is clear in a Change.org petition which has already garnered over 4,200 of 5,000 signatures.
At the end of the day, holding students to the same standards pre-pandemic is inconsiderate and altogether ignorant. In the same way Baylor has made other policy changes based on the situation— campus closings and an extension to Spring Break— it should also consider revising the grading system.