Dear Technician Editor,
I am writing this piece in response to Skye Sarac’s opinion piece, “NC State should keep the new pass/fail option.” I recognize the need to address food insecurity and other hardships faced by students year-round. NC State absolutely needs to do a much better job of addressing these problems and coming up with solutions for these members of the Pack. However, no questions-asked pass/fail is not the answer, and to apply that would be a mistake that, frankly, wouldn’t change much.
Unless I misunderstand, the criteria for passing never changed, rather only whether it affects GPA. The only reason this has been made an option this semester is because the present circumstances affect the entire student population, and it simply is not fair to allow some students an all-encompassing pass while others must take a grade, even if they face hardship. While a student facing hardship may take a hit to the GPA, ultimately their passing or failing will not be determined by this option because the criteria never changed, and the alternative is creating an unfair system that could skew graduate admissions.
[Sarac’s] stance is that, “While some might argue that this would negate the purpose of working hard and earning one’s grades, it is important to remember that for some students, working hard isn’t simply enough to get by.” However, it would negate the purpose of working hard. The problem with your proposal lies in this sentence: “…what if we were to continue the altered pass/fail system, so that any student, regardless of circumstance, will have the option to change a grade to pass fail at any point in the semester, without being penalized?” The unfortunate reality is that while a lot of students work incredibly hard for success, many are also completely willing to take advantage of a system where circumstance is irrelevant. While class rank and GPA might not matter to some, those intent on graduate school will inevitably see their rankings drop and their GPAs become meaningless in the face of a student population that is applying pass/fail to all of their more difficult classes and cruising through lower-level ones to a 3.9-4.0; this, to me, is wildly unfair.
I propose a pass/fail system that is case-by-case for students facing hardship of some sort with assessment of the student’s needs. More specifically, if a student has a hardship that would cause their grades to take a dip that is uncharacteristic of their past, then pass/fail should be considered as an option. But to allow any student to take that option, no questions asked? Absolutely not.
John Allison is a second-year studying political science and computer programming