Allow Franklin & Marshall College Students to Elect Pass/No Pass Due To COVID-19

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Due to the unprecedented circumstances that have rapidly and fundamentally changed the ways in which we are expected to learn, we propose that the college allow all students studying on campus in Spring 2020 to elect a ‘pass/no pass’ option for any course(s) in which they're currently enrolled. *Edit for clarification: including courses that would count towards major(s) and minor requirements.* Here is a summary of our reasoning:

1. Many courses, such as those with a laboratory or Community-Based Learning component, simply do not translate well online. Many course requirements and assignments are being fundamentally altered, deleted, or combined with other assignments, and we are facing completely different expectations than when our classes first started and we had the option to elect “pass/no pass.” 

2. For many students, worrying about the health of ourselves and our loved ones fills up a great deal of our consciousness, particularly for students who are immunocompromised or who have close family members and friends who fall into categories considered most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Social distancing is not an option for everyone, and students who must continue to leave their homes to take care of themselves and their families face additional burdens.

3. Online learning is not the most accessible option for students with certain disabilities, learning or otherwise. Although we are grateful that the Office of Accessibility is providing what services they can remotely, the unavoidable lack of accommodations for disabled students can make learning more difficult and less accessible than on campus. 

4. Not all students have home environments that are conducive to learning and performing well on exams and assignments. Most of us are not used to learning online and are now trying to get as organized and prepared as we can, but there is only so much we can do. This creates an additional barrier to performing as well as we’d like. 

5. Other colleges and universities have made changes to their grading policies as a result of COVID-19. For example, Dickinson College is allowing students to either take a grade for their classes or elect ‘pass/no pass,’ and is giving faculty the freedom to make their classes completely ‘pass/no pass.’ George Washington University has adopted a similar policy for most of their schools. Smith College, Northwestern University and others have elected to make all courses ‘pass/no pass.’ 

6. There are so many unknowns. We don’t know exactly how many cases we’re going to see, and there’s a chance that many F&M students and faculty will come down with the illness, affecting each and every one of us or someone we know. This is an existential threat, and while we’re all trying to stay positive, we are just trying to get through this. We believe that allowing students to elect ‘pass/no pass’ will ease some of our anxiety and allow us to focus on keeping ourselves and those we love safe. 

This petition was constructed by only a few F&M students, and does not encompass all of the various challenges students are facing due to these unforeseen circumstances. We encourage other F&M students and student groups to explain their personal reasons as to why they believe this is the best option in whatever mode they see fit. The Smith College statement sums up our central argument in a single sentence: “In a new and unfamiliar environment, we cannot hold faculty and students to expectations constructed in and for a different instructional experience.”


If you are an F&M student who believes the college should allow for ‘pass/no pass,’ please sign this petition and share on social media. 


Thank you for your consideration.