Allow Bridgewater College students to select pass/fail grading options due to COVID-19

Allow Bridgewater College students to select pass/fail grading options due to COVID-19

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kelsi listman started this petition to Council of Education Bridgewater College Administration and

Ask the Bridgewater College administration to consider the following grading options for this semester:
Students may choose to continue with A/F grading options—no changes

·       The following options would be available to students on a course-by-course basis:

CC: Credit for course grade equivalent to a C- or higher letter grade

1.       Student receives credit for the course. 

2.       For courses that require a “C” grade in a prerequisite course, the CC grade satisfies the prerequisite.

3.       Grade does not calculate into the GPA.

CD:  Credit for course grade equivalent to grade in the range of a D- to a D+ letter grade

1.       Student receives credit for the course. 

2.       Grade does not calculate into the GPA.

NC: Equivalent to a failing grade in the course

1.       No credit earned for course.

2.       Grade does not calculate into the GPA.


This is the same grading system that was provided for Bridgewater students at the end of Spring semester, after being sent home at the beginning of the pandemic. Thus, I know it is considered fair by the administration at least under the circumstances of last semester. I would argue that these circumstances have not changed this semester. While the administration may argue that Bridgewater students had some "choice" in the matter, this is not the case. If students did not want to attend school under the same conditions, the only "options" would be dropping out or taking a year (or who knows how long) off of school. This is, of course, a ridiculous option because the rest of the country continues to push forward under modified conditions, so students should be able to do the same.

Similarly, the Bridgewater administration may argue that students are more prepared to attend school under such conditions, since students have been dealing with the pandemic for several months. However, people around the world are still coping with consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially students. Many are losing loved ones; many are suffering in isolation. Some students are not allowed to go home to see family members without risking infecting immuno-compromised loved ones. With all the weight put on the shoulders of students, they cannot be expected to perform at the same level academically. Students are not any more prepared for the academic changes this semester than they were in the Spring.

Bridgewater College has taken some steps to accommodate these issues, but not enough. When I asked the registrar about pass/fail options because I was struggling with an online class, the registrar's office recommended dropping an online class and taking one in person. The class I was struggling in is required for my major, so I cannot drop it. Even so, it is the administration's responsibility to ensure that all classes are equally accessible to every student based on his or her individual needs. No one should have to drop a class because it is online, since students have no say in the matter.

Specifically, there are two issues preventing students from performing at their best this semester: technology and mental health. Technology may seem like an easy fix, but there is absolutely nothing the administration can do to boost mental health to an acceptable level. In regards to technology, every student does not have the same access to the internet and a computer or other system allowing him or her to be online. Many students must share technology with family. The solution for this cannot be for such students to be on-campus and only select in-person classes. Those who want to make the best decision for themselves (in regards to their health) by living at home, should not have to sacrifice any degree of their education. Some professors demand video and audio on Zoom, but students may not be able to access these tools. Many students have had to purchase or borrow webcams to satisfy the needs of their instructors, which is unacceptable under financially difficult times. Some classes are presentation-based, requiring an even greater degree of technology. In one class, I must have an iPad, a touch screen laptop, or some other expensive tool for presentations. As the course is required for my major, I have no choice but to meet these technological demands. A great deal of students are in the same boat, some of which, have even less supporting financial resources.


Even if there were a way to ensure every student had equal access to technology, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have disastrously impacted the mental health of students. One tweet from a peer said it best: "Online school had made me so desensitized to my grades because my exams just feel like buzzfeed quizzes." The distance between students and the learning environment has allowed many students to feel indifferent to their academics. Many top-performing students at Bridgewater have become detached from their education due to the current conditions. As mentioned previously, people are often isolated from friends and loved ones. On Bridgewater College's campus, students are not allowed to visit other residential buildings. While this is an understandable measure employed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus, it has greatly hindered social interaction which is then detrimental to students' mental health. There are individuals on campus who have no friends in their residential halls and have only online classes. It seems then that Bridgewater College's current guidelines require these students to be almost entirely cut off from society, which is in no way beneficial to mental health. People are getting tired of spending time with their friends from a six foot distance outdoors; this will especially become an issue during winter. Social interaction is the key to favorable mental health. Even students at home may live under strict regulations, since their loved ones may be immuno-compromised.

Students are NOT expecting a change in the College's guidelines for social interaction, because they are implemented for safety. Instead, students are expecting lenience from the administration in regards to academic performance. Some professors and staff are quite understanding, but others have high expectations. It is unfair that students are evaluated differently based on the professors they have, especially if certain classes must be taken to graduate on time. Since it is nearly impossible to have every professor assess students evenly, the best and easiest fix is to employ the grading system listed above.
Many students, teachers, and parents will speak to the points made. The circumstances in the country have certainly not gotten better since last Spring when the grading system was implemented. I am not alone in noticing the lower academic performance by students this semester due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. A high school computer science teacher noted that her grades are much lower this year because learning the material virtually is more difficult. From this petition, we expect action. We want more than recognition of our struggling; we want a grading system that reflects said recognition.

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