Updated: Oct 28, 2020
By: Loren Negovan
There is no doubt that the COVID-19 crisis has caused many students stress over their grades and their academic performance. With the new resulting changes, such as the swift shift to online classes, and thus a whole different format, there is a high potential for students to be worried about their academic performance. It is safe to say that most students are not accustomed to learning online, and that grades may suffer as a result of the switch to virtual classes. Thus, taking this into consideration, Adelphi has introduced an option to switch one’s letter grade to a pass/fail for this semester.
The option has several benefits. First, having the option of a pass/fail grade will allow students to still pass particularly difficult classes. It also will not have any effect on GPA, so students will be able to take better care of their mental health in these times of hardship. According to the email Adelphi sent out about the grading option, “This approach supports you in working to your highest potential, but does not penalize you with an ‘F’ if the sudden conversion to remote learning results in unexpected challenges and a lower than expected grade in any courses.”
Peter West, associate provost for student success, played a part in making the decision to offer this grading option.
“The Provost’s office began discussions on a pass/fail option once we made the decision to move to remote learning,” he said. “Like so many other institutions, we are very aware of the fact that changing teaching and learning formats in the middle of the semester poses a great challenge to our students.”
While a student-made petition requesting pass/fail to be offered to students circulated around the first week of online learning, West explained that while they were made aware of it, discussions with faculty about how to craft an appropriate policy for Adelphi were already far along.
Of course, students have something to say about this, and the feedback has been mostly positive.
“I think it’s a good thing,” said Valery Vasquez, a first-year student. “This semester has become really crazy and not everyone is able to participate at their full capacity because they might have to take care of family. With the pass/fail option, GPAs won’t be affected so much so everyone can be able to focus on their health rather than their grades.”
“If I don’t do well in one of my classes,” said Sophie Muhlbauer, a first-year student, “I think it might be a good idea.”
But there are still exceptions for certain majors. Nursing, accounting, physical education, art education and music education will be more limited in how they can use the pass/fail option. Communications sciences and disorders majors, as well as students in the Scholar Teacher Education Program (STEP), will also have these limitations.
“I strongly recommend that students with questions about how the policy applies to their major or program speak directly with their chair or program director,” West said. “It’s important to understand that when we were crafting the policy, we knew that `pass’ or `no credit’ grades bring with them a whole list of questions and ambiguities. There are rules about financial aid, for example. Also, in programs that lead to certification, we might have accrediting bodies that don’t allow a pass grade to count towards their degree requirements.”
Some classes, by their nature, are simply not made to be online. Mylo Fisherman, another first year student, said, “I am taking one class in particular that has been extremely stressing me out as it was a class that works better in person, and if I end up not doing as well as I want due to this, I may take the pass/fail option.”
Hopefully, the new pass/fail option will be an asset as well as a relief to students. West made it clear that he wants students to know faculty are deeply committed to supporting them, now more than ever.
“In light of everything that’s happening right now, this policy offers students a way of making sure that they can do their best in the coming weeks and then make the decision about the grading option based on what is best for their own academic and professional careers when the semester has ended.,” he said.