Ever since BGSU’s transition to online classes, there has been conversations online between students asking for the option to have a flexible grade option that would allow for students to pick whether their classes should be pass/fail or the normal A through F grading scale. Personally, though this can seem like an appealing option, I do not think that the university administration should make that an option.
Some key characteristics of the pass/fail option as it stands are the allocation of 16 undergraduate credit hours to make into pass/fail classes. In order to get these 16 credit hours, you must pass the class. For example, if you fail a three credit hour class that you have made pass/fail, those three credit hours will not add into the 16 allotted pass/fail credit hours.
Secondly, in order to pass a class in a pass/fail options, a student has to receive a C or better. A letter grade of D or F will result in a fail for that pass/fail class.
Due to the grading scale for a pass/fail class as being S for Satisfactory or Passing and U for being Unsatisfactory or Failing, a pass/fail class does not affect a student’s GPA.
Lastly, students cannot make their major or minor classes a pass/fail class.
Due to these characteristics, there are some issues with giving students the option to make all of their classes pass/fail this semester due to the special circumstances of transitioning to all online classes.
Firstly, many credit hour-wise juniors and seniors are specifically in classes for their major or minor. Offering them the chance to make these classes pass/fail when they usually can’t is unfair to them really because they cannot normally utilize this option.
Secondly, many graduate programs look for specific classes that a student has taken to understand if they have an academic background in a subject. With a pass/fail class, an admissions worker may not be able to understand the student’s foundation in a particular topic. For example, a biology student desiring to go to veterinarian school may take a class not needed for a biology major to graduate, but is needed to qualify for the veterinarian program they wish to enter. If the biology major makes this class a pass/fail, it could result in a spot given to someone else who got a B in the class because admissions understands what that B means rather than the biology student who simply got a ‘pass’ in the same class.
Lastly, if a student makes a class pass/fail on the idea they are not going to do as well as they like, but end up receiving a high grade, such as an A, they would rather keep, they have to go through an appeal process in order for it to be changed. If the student does not go through the appeal process, their A does not affect their GPA to give it a boost if they want it.
Granted, this is a choice for each student to decide whether or not it is good for them to have a class be pass/fail. However, I think many students are not considering all of the different ways making a class pass/fail could affect them negatively because they are so stressed about the transition to online classes. If BGSU moved to allow all classes to be pass/fail on a student’s choice, some students would go for it simply because it seems easier without thinking of the consequences of their decision.