Will Bucknell allow another semester of Pass/Fail?

Peyton Dripps, Senior Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people around the world in devastating ways. Lockdowns and quarantine restrictions were mentally challenging, and in many cases damaging for everyone. It appears these unprecedented times led to increases in depression, anxiety and suicide rates across the globe. As a result of the mental pressures of the looming pandemic, as well as a lack of human interaction for months, students struggled upon returning to their college campuses in August of 2020. Presumably, many felt anxious and worried about what their college experience would look and feel like in the heat of a global pandemic. The University’s Counseling and Student Development Center was flooded with students experiencing mental health problems due to the current pandemic and students felt a lack of motivation to be successful. I believe many students felt more alone than ever, and as a result were not able to focus on school work and perform at their highest level academically.

With these heightened mental health issues, the University allowed students to have the option to Pass/Fail courses in the fall and spring semesters of the 2020-2021 academic school year. The University shared on their website before the end of the fall semester that, “The University will continue to offer students the option of keeping an assigned grade or converting it to pass after final grades are submitted for the spring 2021 semester. Student transcripts will be modified to provide context about the disruption caused by COVID-19 during the spring 2021 semester and the resulting change in grading.” Following the message came a word of caution, warning students of the potential consequences that could arise if they choose the Pass/Fail option. This decision could affect applications for graduate school, or it could hinder financial or future aid packages. 

Coming back to campus this fall and attending all classes in person, many students are still anxious and stressed about college life and responsibility, as they grew accustomed to a socially distant world. Students may be struggling with time management, practicing and creating good study habits, participating in class and collaborating with other students. Professors have shared that students’ midterm grades are among the lowest they have ever seen. With the amount of students struggling in their classes and with mental health problems, the University should continue to give students the option to Pass/Fail their classes, as was done in the 2020-2021 school year. Although we are not in a current lockdown, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our lives forever.

The low grades that professors have been noticing this semester are alarming and could reflect poorly on the University. “Returning to fully in person classes after remote learning has been a huge adjustment for myself, as well as my peers. As someone who has consistently performed well in my classes, I have noticed a gap this semester, demonstrating the lingering effects COVID has presented. Students deserve the option to opt for pass/fail grades considering the struggles we are all dealing with on a daily basis.” Hayley Koenigsberg ’23 Finance major, said. Hayley, along with other students, have witnessed a decline in their grades this semester due to the persisting effects of the pandemic, and are interested in the opportunity to Pass/Fail their courses. The pandemic is not over, and although vaccination has allowed for a return to in-person instruction, the social and emotional toll the pandemic has taken on all of us remains in our everyday lives. The adjustment to Pass/Fail surely has its pros and cons, however, the pros in this situation greatly outweigh any potential negatives. University students need academic support, and a move to Pass/Fail lifts a tremendous weight off the shoulders of all students, allowing them to focus on their personal health and preparing them to continue to pursue their academic success.

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