Allow Tufts Students to take Classes Pass/Fail and Still Progress Towards Graduation

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Academic Obstacles caused by the COVID-19 Transition 

Due to coronavirus and a growing pandemic, students have been forced to evict from Tufts’ campus in a matter of five days. This eviction has led to serious hardships in the form of monetary burdens, lost education resources, and harder learning environments. To list some of these: 1) many of the students who worked on and near campus have now lost their source of income that they relied on to pay rent, bills, medical expenses, and more; 2) many students now do not have access to a reliable internet connection at home; 3) most students no longer have access to adequate study environments where they can focus on their learning due to harmful family environments and different time zones. These are only a few of the countless problems that arise for students at home. 

The Progressive Pass/Fail

We propose an emergency temporary pass/fail policy that we call the progressive pass/fail: giving students the option to take a course pass/fail this semester, while still counting it towards graduation progression. This progressive pass/fail policy would mean that students could choose whether their classes would be graded pass/fail and these classes would still allow them to progress in their major and distribution requirements. While students can regularly choose P/F, the fact that these courses do not count towards graduation credit disincentivizes students from this option. Furthermore, the current deadline to choose pass/fail is April 1 and Spring Break ends on March 25, which provides students with only five days of classes before they make their decision. Depending on the date of the policy implementation, we recommend that the pass/fail deadline should be extended to give students an adequate amount of time to figure out what grading system is best for them. The progressive pass/fail would be fair considering the hardship noted above and would allow students to learn better because the stress of receiving a letter grade would be alleviated.

Because of the student transition off-campus and the growing COVID-19 pandemic, students are currently undergoing innumerable challenges to their academic careers.  Tufts should do the right thing and implement the progressive pass/fail policy considering the hardships the circumstances have caused. Any other option actively discriminates against students who do not have adequate learning facilities at home. No student should be academically punished because they don’t have access to the tools and resources necessary for learning.

Emergency progressive pass/fail should be optional as some students may choose to keep their letter grades because of alternating reasons—such as graduate school or if they are a senior needing a GPA boost to graduate.

Peer Institutions Implementing Different Academic Policies 

While the progressive pass/fail may seem unprecedented, this policy is gaining popularity; many of Tufts' peer institutions such as MIT, Georgetown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford UniversitySmith College, New York Univeristy, Northwestern University, Boston College, Grinnell College, George Washington University, and Bowdoin College have already enacted similar pass/fail policies. Additionally, students at Princeton University, Yale University, and other institutions are currently urging the faculty to adopt this policy. Many students have already expressed their support for this policy and the many ways in which it would help them deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Since Tufts is similar in academic caliber to all of these institutions, it’s only logical that Tufts supports its students in an equal manner.  

Final Statement

We understand that the University has made incredibly difficult decisions for the safety of its students and that this situation is unprecedented for everyone. Based on the community values that Tufts stands for, we believe that Tufts will do the honorable thing and implement the progressive pass/fail to accommodate all students given the extenuating circumstances that the COVID-19 crisis has created.

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