Today: Apr 12, 2024

Students decide on pass fail as semester comes to close

Julia CarusoContributor

Some students say COVID-19 has caused poor communication between professors and classrooms, leading them to fall behind and be overwhelmed as the work piled up. Just last spring, over 1,300 students withdrew from over 1,800 courses.

“As a nursing major, I had to teach and educate myself in all of my classes,” said senior Zoë Stradinger. “This major is difficult and being online made it nearly impossible. We had no hands-on experience, which is very discouraging.”

In addition to possibly withdrawing from a class, students this semester have a big decision to make in the next several days; due to COVID-19, should they stay with traditional grading – or switch to the pass/fail option.

According to, the university has always allowed the option, limited to electives with a maximum of one pass per semester with total of five throughout a student’s career. Major and minor requirements were ineligible.

Last spring when the school shut down abruptly, pass/fail was offered widely throughout departments but required rigorous and tedious paperwork.

Forms were difficult to locate, moving from academic advisers to chairs of departments and so on. This fall semester, a lot has changed.

“We left it up to the departments to determine whether or not they would allow courses in the majors and minor to be pass/fail,” said Katherine Marsland, senate chair of Student Policy. “Some departments have accreditation and certification that don’t allow things like that.”

The Faculty Senate was nearly unanimous in support of the pass/fail option with a vote of 41-to-3.

For Fall 2020, the majority of courses are given the pass/fail option. Meaning, a D+ or higher will receive a “pass” on transcripts, having no effect on overall average. However, an F, even if a student has requested the pass/fail option, will still have negative affects regarding transcripts and overall GPA.

Additionally, the pass/fail option has been extended to the final day of classes, Dec. 15, to ensure students are making well informed decisions. The option to withdrawal has also been pushed to the final day of classes.

Some don’t have a solid understanding of how the pass/fail option works this semester with many changes put in place.

“My advisor told me it was too late to use the pass/fail option,” said junior Shay Smith. “Although it’s safer to be online, I get distracted easily. I’d rather be in person and the pass option would be helpful.”

For students in more rigorous programs, such as nursing, computer science, journalism, educational leadership, music and many more, this option is not applicable.

“Pass/fail is a useful tool in terms of saving a GPA,” said Aidan Coleman, Student Government Representative to the Faculty Senate. “But it could be detrimental to an applicant’s chances of being accepted into more rigorous programs.”

For students looking towards graduate school, multiple P’s on a transcript could jeopardize the competitiveness of their application.

Additionally, departments which allowed students to take a pass in critical courses last spring, found those same students struggling in upper level courses currently.

“More departments decided not to allow the pass/fail options for majors and minors this semester,” said Marsland. “We found students who passed with low grades last semester aren’t doing well with their upper level courses now.”

While pass/fail is not right for all students, it is designed to decrease the stress placed on students in the midst of a global pandemic.

“Each student has their own path and should weigh the pros against the cons, as in any situation,” said Coleman. “These are extremely difficult times and we should be doing anything and everything we can to ease the enormous burden we share.”

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