Allow Pass/Fail Option for Boston College Students

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Boston College’s administration must offer a Pass/Fail option for this semester's courses, without the option affecting graduation or major requirements. Furthermore, students should be able to opt in until the end of the semester.

Georgetown University, MIT, University of Michigan, and Carnegie Mellon University just made policy changes to provide Pass/Fail options due to COVID-19, and other universities are currently following suit. If Boston College does not make this change, it would put affected BC students at a disadvantage (compared to students of universities that have implemented a Pass/Fail option) when applying for graduate schools or employment. 

With estimates that as many as 100 million Americans will come down with COVID-19, the pandemic will affect most everyone in some way, shape, or form. Even if students' loved ones aren't directly affected by the virus, these will be financially- and mentally-trying times that aren't conducive to a positive learning environment. Students face enormous anxiety and stress related to moving out, future uncertainties, and being unable to interact with friends or participate in student organizations. Emotional struggles caused by the pandemic will trouble students at different times of the semester and to varying degrees. In the wake of a dangerous and disruptive pandemic, grades should not be a major concern for students.

Furthermore, the online learning environment is troublesome as well. Many students struggle to focus when classes aren't held in person, and fears related to the coronavirus only exacerbate this. Also, some students do not have access to computers or WiFi, and, even if they do, their internet and computer may not be able to handle the load of live video-chat sessions. Home environments for some students may not be stable, supportive, or distraction-free. Some professors are even requesting classes be held live at the scheduled time which is sometimes next-to-impossible for international or west-coast students. Although resources such as class office hours are being digitized, the experience is hardly the same. In addition, the lack of access to physical library resources, research subjects, physical lab materials, etc. will place students at a great disadvantage. Finally, some professors will administer remote exams using lock-down browsers or other programs designed to prevent cheating, but these are not impenetrable, foolproof systems. Cheating will be disincentivized with a Pass/Fail option.

Boston College students are driven enough to continue to engage in their courses without a high-stakes grading system that will not provide them leeway for some of the tough situations that may arise in the wake of this pandemic. Students are concerned that this remain an option and that taking the optional Pass/Fail not affect the use of those credits for major or graduation requirements. Therefore, again, we are asking the University administration to offer a Pass/Fail option for this semester's courses, without the option affecting graduation or major requirements.