Students deserve pass/fail again for fall semester

By Zach Tufenkjian | Contributor

It is no secret to Baylor students that 2020 has been a unique year with many challenges. Whether it be increased food insecurity, grueling academics or deteriorating mental health, students have been trying to catch a break after working straight through the semester. One way the university can further aid students during this time is by reimplementing a pass/fail grading option for this semester.

There are countless reasons why the university should once again adopt this policy. For one, Baylor’s campus community has not been immune to the coronavirus pandemic. Since Aug. 1, there have been over 1,400 cases of COVID-19 reported at Baylor. Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 have had to change their entire lives and by extension, their academic strategies. Not only that, but other students with exposure to positive cases must also adjust their lives. Entire residence hall floors, classes and other congregations of students have had to adapt suddenly and without warning.

Another reason to adopt a pass/fail option is the mental health of students. Before the pandemic, mental health among college students was already in a state of crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has underscored how important this issue is and how prevalent it is on our campus. Students are already stressed about their academic performance and must now worry about how they can balance schedules that may vary in format. This especially rings true for freshmen students who are still in the first semester of their college experience. Online classes are not for everyone and many students have had to face challenges in trying to obtain the education Baylor is renowned for providing.

Perhaps the clearest reason why pass/fail should be adopted for this semester is the fact that it has worked previously. Students called for this same action last semester and were relieved when their request was fulfilled. Now that students find themselves in a similar yet unique situation, it is important to continue offer options to students that can avoid putting them in tough spots. Other institutions like the University of Virginia and Duke University have already adopted variations of a pass/fail policy, some of them even extending it out to the end of spring 2021.

Make no mistake, the university has gone to great lengths in trying to care for its students. From the launch of a mental health mobile application to accessible COVID-19 testing options, Baylor has had success in becoming a model for other institutions of higher education. However, pass/fail is a necessary step to ensure that students have the comfort and options they need to succeed.

Some may see this request for pass/fail as a selfish way to get a free handout. Counterarguments like these fail to confront the real issues facing our student body and the volatile experience students have faced for several months now. On top of that, nearly 2,000 students have signed a petition calling for this change as of Wednesday. Many students are in favor of this policy given its success last spring and are imploring the university to take action during this critical time in their lives.

It is time for Baylor to step up once again and provide relief to our student body. Baylor should err on the side of students in light of the challenges they have faced and hardships that do not serve as a reflection of their true academic ability by any means. The university must reinstate a pass/fail option for the Fall semester to make the lives of students a little bit better during this time.