October 31, 2020
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The pass/fail policy isn’t renewing for the fall. Here’s what students, faculty are saying

By Liya Davidov and Jenna Hart
Features Editor and Staff Writer

The various circumstances of the pandemic pushed colleges across the nation to offer lenient grading opportunities for students in the spring semester in the midst of quarantine and the Covid-19 pandemic. At the College, it was no different. President Foster offered the ungraded option policy. But for the fall, that policy wasn’t renewed.

This policy in the spring semester allowed students to decide whether their course would be graded numerically or with a pass/fail system. If a student chose the ungraded option for a class, their transcript would either indicate credit if their grade was a D or above, or no credit if a student received an F.

“I saw an opportunity to boost my GPA,” said Joseph Harold, a sophomore electrical engineering major. “If I got a slightly lower grade than what I wanted, I could make it a pass/fail and it wouldn’t drop my GPA.”

Senior biomedical engineering major Hannah Morgan, said that she ended the semester with a “good GPA,” but one that would drop her cumulative grade point average below where she wanted it to be when applying to graduate school.

Courses are no longer graded as pass/fail (Flickr).

With no options left but the safety net provided by the ungraded option policy, Morgan did exactly what she didn’t want to do. “I cherry picked my grades,” she said. “It was out of desperation after the most draining semester of my entire TCNJ experience.”

Implementation of this policy received positive feedback from students and professors alike. Professor Karen Deaver, the studio coordinator of the College’s writing program, said that the policy helped “acknowledge and support all students during a very difficult transition.”

That policy wouldn’t continue in the fall.

Ashley Ean, a senior accounting major, said that the College is “attempting to try for normalcy in a very abnormal time,” but she still feels that the effects of Covid-19 are still as prevalent as they were back in March. 

Professor Deaver agreed, arguing that the College’s choice to “resume traditional grading practices … provides a sense of normalcy and expectation of productivity.”

However, some students feel differently about the matter. 

“I think TCNJ made a mistake by failing to offer the pass/fail option this semester,” said senior music and political science double major Shrish Jawadiwar. “I feel like having the option would be better to accommodate research-based, artistic or musical courses that are difficult to complete without in-person support and easy library access.”

Ean recognized the importance of social interaction, and how mentally destructive it has been not having as much in-person communication with family and friends.

Like Jawadiwar, Ean and Morgan also believe that the College should be implementing the policy through the fall.

“There are people stuck in the same bad situations,” Morgan said. “I didn’t like pass/fail, but I needed it. Little has changed between now and then. People still need it or might even need it more.”

Professor Deaver acknowledged the “challenging and diverse circumstances” students face when she’s assigning and scoring work.

“We want students to know that we are here for you, that our instructional relationship is dynamic, and that on a case by case basis we will do all we can to enable you to achieve your learning goals.”

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