By Adeeb Chowdhury
Following recent efforts by Student Association leaders, the Office of the Provost announced Tuesday that a modified pass/fail option for this semester and next semester, as well as a course withdrawal deadline extension, would be made available to students.
Speaking at the SA executive council meeting Monday, SA President Rudaba Ahmed described her advocacy for a pass/fail option, stating that such a measure would be of enormous help to many students struggling due to COVID-related issues. Academic Affairs Coordinator Ahmed Metwaly agreed, pointing out that this “was clearly not a regular semester” for the student body.
Various conditions pertaining to the pandemic created extraordinary difficulties for students, Metwaly said. He compared this fall to last semester and described certain issues that impede students’ academic performance.
Among these issues are safety and social distancing measures, financial strain, lack of face-to-face classroom interaction and so-called “Zoom fatigue,” in which constant online classes lead to exhaustion and inability to pay attention. In addition, numerous students unable to come to Plattsburgh or even the United States encounter time zone differences that create additional complications. Metwaly pointed out a number of international students have to participate in online classes at very late or early hours of the day.
“It’s clear that a lot of students are struggling with corona-related conditions this semester,” Metwaly reiterated. “The pass/fail option would greatly benefit a lot of people, and it’s very important to the SA that the student body receives the help it needs.”
The SA had conducted a survey through its Instagram page regarding students’ need for a pass/fail option. According to Ahmed, the survey ended with 500 votes and demonstrated considerable support for the measure. Metwaly added that SA members’ everyday conversations with students on campus also pointed to the widespread need to make this option available.
Ahmed said she had conversations with Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Anne Herzog, as well as Faculty Senate Chairperson Gary Kroll regarding this issue. In addition, Metwaly advocated the pass/fail option in front of the Faculty Senate and re-iterated the difficulties students were facing that necessitated this measure.
The day after the SA meeting, Herzog announced via email to all students that they will be permitted to select pass/fail grading for one non-major course within 24 hours of grade submission this semester. She recommended that students consult with their advisors to discuss how exercising this option may affect their graduation honors, graduate school applications, course transfer, GPA calculations and minimum grades needed for professional programs.
Herzog said certain concerns to making the pass/fail option available for all courses, such as how it may result in students not learning content necessary for their degree completion. Therefore, courses that fulfill major and cognate requirements, as well as graduate courses and ENG101 College Writing II, are not eligible.
The announcement also stated students may choose to withdraw from one or more courses until the end of this semester. The deadline for sending late course withdrawal requests to the student’s respective dean’s office via the Course Schedule Adjustment Form is Dec.11.