Misplacing confidence over compassion — Georgia State students deserve pass/fail

Illustration by Monique | The Signal

Since the initial closing of campuses in March of this year, students across Georgia have been desperately appealing to the University System of Georgia for the implementation of a pass/fail system The students want the ability to choose to opt-out of a letter grade for specific courses but still be able to gain the credit if they pass the course. This gives students the opportunity to focus their energy on learning the material over maintaining their GPA.

This idea became especially prevalent following the shift from in-person to online classes. Not only did this change definitely increase the intensity of many student’s course loads, a number of students suffered due to lack of access to resources and faulty internet. While carrying the weight of a pandemic, students were also carrying the stress of trying to sort out how to effectively continue and navigate education online.

In response, all eight Ivy League universities have offered their students the chance to pass/fail their courses, citing a desire to adapt to the challenges that come from a mid-semester transition that many students were not prepared for.

Unsurprisingly, a majority of other universities across the nation agreed with that sentiment. In fact, a study conducted by Grady News Source found that Georgia is the only state in the nation to not have a single public college or university provide their students an opportunity to pass/fail a course.

Students have voiced their desire for the USG to pass some form of grade reform. Several different petitions were passed around, each with signatures averaging in the thousands, and many students came forward and testified about their personal struggles with online learning. Some students are struggling to keep an internet connection or they lacking a safe or stable environment to continue their classwork from home.

In response, a USG spokesperson released the following statement:

“The University System of Georgia is aware some institutions around the nation have decided to shift to pass/fail grading after transitioning to remote education. We are confident our students will rise to the challenge, and the USG will do everything in its power to help them do so. We trust our faculty to teach and grade students effectively. In times of adversity, we should reach higher, not lower.

Maintaining high academic standards is critical to the success of USG students now and in the future. Continuing letter grading for the final few weeks of the semester will allow faculty to assess the performance of students in the same manner as they always have. The USG is confident that faculty and students will rely on the resilience they have shown thus far and continue to meet our high standards.”

After hearing testimony that students across the state are sitting in fast-food parking lots to meet their zoom-class attendance expectations, and that others are returning to unsafe and unstable home lives, the USG’s response is that during these uncertain times we should just keep working harder.

Georgia is now considered an epicenter of the coronavirus. Despite this, the USG encourages students to return to campus for in-person classes but will not consider grade reform.

It is unreasonable and unethical for the USG to demand that Georgia students “rise to the challenge” that, frankly, they created, while damaging their future prospects by risking their GPAs, their quality of education and their lives. The USG expects Georgia colleges and universities to operate at standards that all eight Ivy League universities agree are unreasonable.

Instead of empathizing with the students who have shared their testimonies, the USG has encouraged them to put aside such petty grievances that follow a pandemic and instead focus that energy on getting A’s, no matter the cost.

Georgia’s college students deserve the right to a pass/fail system for their courses, they deserve the opportunity to focus on learning over their grade point averages during a global pandemic.

Students do not need misplaced confidence; they need compassion.