Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
The end is near! Or so it would seem, as we all gear up to go back to in-person classes this upcoming semester. Though the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been recalled out of “an abundance of caution,” leading students to believe that the MTU vaccination clinic we’ve heard talk of may not actually come to fruition, there seems to be a light on the horizon! Many students and faculty members have been seeking out the vaccine on their own, making it more and more likely every day that we will soon be able to return to “normal” life.
This past year was bleak, but there were many beautiful moments and many lessons which we can take away from this painful experience. We learned how to support each other, even from a distance, and about the importance of learning the best ways to support ourselves.
Amidst all this outside education and personal growth, many of us are still working towards a degree. This has been an incredibly difficult and strange undertaking for students and teachers alike. Learning remotely has been quite an experience, and while we’re all so grateful for the amount of work our professors have put in to ensure our success, it has been by no means easy. We are grateful to the university for allowing the pass/fail option up to this semester, as it has taken some of the intense pressure off of students attempting to further their education at this time. However, we’re confused as to why it isn’t being offered this semester.
This semester has been no different than the two previous. Students have been allowed on campus in limited capacity, most lectures have been given online, and most exams have been taken off campus. Students have still had to face extreme difficulty in supporting themselves and losing job opportunities and internships, which in turn forces them to take on work which may interfere with their educational responsibilities in order to afford not only tuition but also rent and food. As far as we can tell, there has really been no change. And yet pass/fail was not offered.
This decision just doesn’t make sense. It seems that the main concern on the university’s part was that allowing this option would affect student’s hireability, ability to get into the graduate program of their choosing, and understanding of the material. However, it seems much more likely that a student’s hireability will be affected by a drop in their GPA, even if this drop is reasonable in the face of such shocking and upsetting circumstances. The same applies for future graduate students – plus, as USG stated in their petition to continue the pass/fail option, students who took advantage of this choice did so sparingly, accepting the pass/fail grade for only somewhere “between 3 and 6 credits [which], to me, does not represent any danger of a significant accumulation when you consider that most degrees awarded at MTU take around 130 credits to complete.” As for students potentially retaining less information from the courses they choose to take a pass or low pass in, taking the pass/low pass option does not indicate a lack of understanding – if you are able to achieve a passing grade, it seems likely that you understand the information.
We believe that the pass/fail option should be continued this semester. This appears to be the last semester in which we will be learning primarily remotely, and as nothing has changed between this semester and last, the same accommodations should be offered.