Are Pass/Fail Options Becoming a Reality for Homebound Students?


By Angela Hickey

With the Catholic University of America  spring semester now strictly online, many students are wondering how this will affect the overall grading process. The move to online learning prompted students to take the initiative and advocate for a pass/fail system in order to help ease the transition that many are having trouble with. 

After originally cancelling classes for two extra days and moving classes online the first two weeks as a precautionary measure, on March 18, President Garvey announced the final decision to move all courses to online instruction due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the surrounding area. When learning that all classes will remain online, many began wondering how this would affect their grades and if it would affect them negatively. 

This prompted senior economics major, Chris Lundt to start an online petition to encourage the classes to go from letter grading to pass/fail. Signers of the petition felt as though this move to online learning would negatively affect the grades that they worked so hard to achieve, causing all of their hard work to go to waste. This petition would go on to be signed by over 1,500 students. 

“I feel like the integrity of the classes (specifically to be on campus) are at stake if we continue online,” said petition signer, Maria Heitmann, “and therefore will not be able to do as well as I would have on campus.”

Eventually, the Student Government Association (SGA) began working on making this idea a reality. SGA senator Gemma del Carmen, along with many others, drafted a resolution that would ask the university to opt in a pass/fail option for the remainder of the semester. By doing this, individual students will be able to decide on a class by class basis which classes they would like to go to pass/fail on or which they would like to remain graded. 

Adapting to this system will not affect one’s previous grades or GPA, instead showing up as a P or F on students’ transcript forms. This optional pass/fail system is used by many grad schools and has been accepted by many schools in the area. Georgetown, Boston College, Carnegie Mellon and Harvard are just a few of the many universities that have adopted this new pass/fail system. Even though the pass/fail system seems efficient, it’s not the best course of action for students attempting to raise their GPA. 

At the moment, only the Rome School of Music and the School of Engineering have been the only CUA programs to accept this new system. In an email sent out by the School of Engineering, the school’s dean, Dr. John A. Judge, explained that despite the engineering school’s ordinary policy of refusing a pass/fail system, under these specific circumstances, he has decided to relax the rule for undergraduate students only. Judge gave undergraduate students an opportunity to make the switch up until Wednesday, April 22. At the moment none of the other CUA schools have made comments on whether they will provide the option or not. Throughout this time, there have been frequent updates on the official CUA website in order to answer any questions students, parents, or faculty may have in this difficult time.All future updates about previously scheduled school events or any updates about classes can be found at this website.

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