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Pass/Fail Classes for the Spring Term

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“Compassion means having a true understanding of, and sympathy for, the condition and needs of others.  This requires developing an awareness of what is happening in the lives of other people. Such awareness forms the foundation for, and encouragement of, acts of generosity and support for those in need.”

Page four of the student handbook is the statement of character, containing three “elements of a sound character:” Integrity, Respect, and Compassion.  The words above make up the foundation of the Choate Rosemary Hall community. Understanding the needs of others and “developing an awareness of what is happening in the lives of other people'' is, perhaps, our school’s greatest value.  The coronavirus pandemic brought students and teachers unexpected stress, and online classes threaten Choate’s equitable learning environment. During this global pandemic, Choate should uphold the moral standards within the student handbook by moving to a pass/fail grading system.  


Choate brings students from various socioeconomic backgrounds to a community that constantly works to ensure all students have the same access to key resources.  Such as WiFi, IPads, their own room, food, tutors, and other resources that ensure equitable, healthy learning. Sadly, the coronavirus and its consequences threaten Choate’s ability to deliver these resources to all of its students.  Students with limited access to the resources Choate provides are at an unfair disadvantage.  These students should not have to work harder than their peers simply due to their current living conditions.  For instance, students have expressed concerns about varying access to the internet or electronics, usually provided by Choate.  In many places, there is public access to these resources, but during times of quarantine and social distancing, even these resources can be restricted. Students who have to share internet routers with multiple family members may have trouble accessing certain video features necessary for online learning. Some students may not even have access to internet routers at all times, and will therefore not even be able to watch the recorded classes. Furthermore, students in quarantine due to the coronavirus lack the proper resources to experience a thorough education. For example, former school president, Vikram Sharma, is currently legally required to remain in his home in Singapore or face deportation.  If Vik needed a resource for his schoolwork he would have to find it within his own home, with no access to the outside world. This is just one example of a much larger issue. Additionally, international students, depending on their time zone, will have the added disadvantage of not being able to participate in live online classes. While students in time zones that coincide with the remote learning schedule will be able to ask questions, others won't have this opportunity at all unless they want to lose sleep. Class participation is key to understanding course material, not being able to attend live classes is a huge disadvantage even if classes are recorded and posted online. Disparities in students’ privilege can, largely, be corrected on campus; however, at home or a temporary place to stay, students with access to more resources will be more capable of displaying greater merit, and ultimately, will likely receive better grades partly due to privilege.  Choate cannot measure merit in situations where students benefit from privilege or suffer from lack thereof. In an effort to correct this, Choate should move to pass/fail classes for the upcoming online term, following our peer schools, Andover and Deerfield(��), and even elite colleges around the country, who made the choice considering the unprecedented conditions. Choate champions compassion on campus and now it is time to stay true to our values when campus is quiet.  


Switching to pass/fail online learning amidst the virus will also aid in alleviating extremely high stress levels.  As the coronavirus pandemic worsens, Choate, and many other schools, closed. Similarly, countries are closing their borders.  International students have been told they can not go back to Choate, and in some cases, they have also been told they can not return to their home countries.  Students and families affected are being forced to scramble and find temporary homes while Choate is closed. Considering the nature of the virus, it is terrifying to be away from your family at this time.  In addition, some students have no idea when they will be able to return home, or even if their current housing can support them for the duration of the pandemic. With the coronavirus pandemic just beginning, things are bound to get worse and stress levels are bound to rise.  On March 27th Choate is moving to a brand new style of teaching, online school, which few Choate students and teachers have any experience with. Students will be forced to adjust to a new way of learning, while some worry about their living situation, family’s financial security, and the health and wellbeing of loved ones.


As a member of this community and former Student Council representative it is my duty to speak up when things just become too much or too unfair, students, both, need a break and to express that grading would be uncompassionate and unfair.  Considering what is happening in the lives of other people in our community and the monumental shift to remote learning, lowering stress levels has never been more important. Far too often the student council finds itself engaging in discussion about how to reduce stress levels but never making any significant changes.  There has never been a more important time to make a significant change (hence why I am spending my time writing this on my senior year spring break). Choate has the ability to significantly lower stress levels by moving to pass/fail classes, allowing students to focus on the learning experience during all this chaos instead of adding to their stress.  I am confident grading in any form would overwhelm many students, particularly those hurt worse by the virus and in the most need. If reducing stress is not enough, pass/fail is the only way to stay true to paramount values, like compassion, and our extreme focus on equity and inclusion. To uphold the values of our student handbook’s statement of character and to simply be fair, Choate should move to pass/fail classes for the rest of the term.

 


How can you help?  Sign the petition, leave a comment, share it, and VOICE YOUR CONCERNS TO YOUR ADVISOR!

 


Worried how this may affect your college admissions?  See the following statement Andover sent to its students:

“In consultation with college and high school colleagues, our College Counseling Office has expressed confidence that colleges will look at this trimester in the context of the pandemic and review transcripts with great flexibility.  There will undoubtedly be countless high schools in the same situation as Andover. The CCO will be poised to answer questions and support students as the spring unfolds.”

 


Don’t think the Choate Administration needs to act in accordance with the values outlined in the student handbook?  See the “modeling” section of the student handbook on page six.

 


Questions? Concerns? Disagreements?  Email me @twilson20@choate.edu.  Just know I might be slow to respond due to limited access to wifi… �



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