Jun 06, 2020
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Fresno State students return to campus on the first day of the fall semester on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. (Larry Valenzuela/The Collegian)

Fresno State needs to expand pass/fail options to students

In the past week, the world has turned upside down for Fresno State students and Californians alike due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. In two weeks, the university announced it would be transitioning to virtual instruction and close all nonessential offices to ensure the physical health of all students and faculty on campus.

Still, there are two aspects to health, mental and physical, and the university has neglected the former by not opening a discussion on grading options. 

Through virtual instruction, students with WiFi access, furniture, food, a stable living environment and other necessities have a clear advantage over others.

The reality is many students do not have a stable home environment to head back to where they can study and learn at ease.

The reality is 18 percent of adults, as of March 17, reported they have been laid off or that their work hours have been cut, according to Los Angeles Times staff writer Suhauna Hussain. This includes Fresno State students who had to decide whether they wanted to stay in their apartment or head back home.

The reality is many students went back home and now face challenges in taking classes in different time zones. 

Looking past these realities, people are still scared, and so am I. On the day I’m writing this, March 24, there are 53,478 positive cases in the U.S. for COVID-19, and at least 714 patients with the virus have died, according to the New York Times.

Many people are gripping with the reality that their family and friends are testing positive and are deeply worried for their health. Combining all these added stressors together, continuing the semester, as usual, is the last thing on many student’s minds.

Fresno State’s administration hasn’t recognized that, and assessment with letter grades have continued as planned. In fact, students aren’t being aided by their own student government as well, since Associated Students Inc. (ASI) is preoccupied with their own elections.

In the words of Lake Worth City Commissioner Omari Hardy, “you failed to act when you had an opportunity.”

Unlike Lake Worth Beach mayor Pam Triolo, Fresno State has a second chance to follow more than a dozen universities across the country like University of Arizona and give students the option to designate any course as pass/fail for the 2020 spring semester. 

Many college administrators have said expanding pass/fail options helps students with their stress and gives them a great deal of flexibility.

Baylor University adopted the policy on Tuesday for the semester and said it “reflects the university’s prioritization of the health and well-being of our campus community, as well as the ongoing continuity of our academic mission.”

Although the approach may seem radical, the situation we’re in is unprecedented. Different situations demand different approaches.

By eliminating letter grades, it relieves some of the stresses that students in undergraduate and graduate school are facing. In a time of crisis, A’s are not a measure of success; they’re a measure of accessibility. 

Another measure the university can adopt is to follow UNC-Chapel Hill and create a grade called CV for those affected by the pandemic. This grade gives students an additional three months to complete their work. 

As for students looking to apply to a job, law school or medical school, transcripts will not look the same after this crisis. Hiring managers and admission officers must realize that grades should not be looked at as a standard of performance.

It’s up to Fresno State to step up and relieve the worries of thousands of students. Give students several options before it’s too late.

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