August 10, 2020
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Social distancing is a luxury. A pass/fail option isn’t enough.

By Seva Galant

COVID-19 has undoubtedly affected every student at the College, but some more than others. The disenfranchised have been left on the outskirts of crucial resources, overlooked as administrators and governors fail to recognize the needs of every community member. This is why I created a petition that encourages the College to do more than just offer a pass/fail option. 

If the College does not want to consider universal, mandatory pass/fail, it should consider a grade shift, which is outlined in the petition, meaning that a grade of an 80-100 would be equivalent to an A. If that is not feasible, students should be assured that their grades will not fall below what they were before this pandemic moved classes online.

On March 19, Interim Provost William Keep proposed a “Credit/No Credit” policy that was conditional upon feedback from the campus community. (Instagram)

It’s easy to assume that everyone can afford to stay home during this pandemic if they try hard enough, but this is not the case. I know first-hand, and even though my experiences are mild at best, I want to tell you about how COVID-19 has affected my life. 

I pay for my education out of pocket and lease an off-campus house, one where the payments don’t stop during a global pandemic. I can’t afford to pay my tuition all at once, so I pay in installments. The College may have suspended due dates for these installments, but that doesn’t mean they don’t eventually need to be made. 

I work on campus and sell stickers to pay for my food, housing and tuition. However, all student employee hours were terminated, and I no longer have a student base to sell my stickers to. With no other options, I was forced to become a full-time, stay-at-home student. 

Although difficult, these circumstances were manageable — until I found out my mom’s hours were cut at work. We don’t have savings, and if my mom cannot get paid for working overtime, she can’t pay the mortgage on her own. Although mortgage payments can be suspended, this comes with an unaffordable interest rate. To help her out, I’ve returned to my summer job at a fish market in Belmar, NJ. 

I’m a full-time student. I’m a full-time essential worker. And I cannot afford the luxury of social distancing. 

The petition I put together is not just for me — it’s for the many who cannot afford to social distance without serious, long-term repercussions. Whether they are dealing with unsteady finances, have a sick family member or are facing housing insecurity, it is hard to focus on school work when social distancing to protect your health isn’t even an option. 

The pass/fail option is not viable for those pursuing further education, as GPAs are weighted heavily in the decision making process for graduate programs, medical and law school. With certain classes being dropped or made pass/fail, GPA weighting becomes much more of a gamble, affecting admission into these programs.

This petition reminds the College that it has forgotten about the marginalized and disenfranchised members of its community. Without action from administrators, many of us will be permanently affected by COVID-19, even if we haven’t been physically affected. The pass/fail option isn’t good enough, as it creates class inequality and jeopardizes what many of us have sacrificed so much for. 

Seva is a sophomore health and exercise science major at the College.

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