Earlier this month, Provost Nathan Urban confirmed Lehigh’s Education Policy committee recommendation to not offer a pass/fail grading option for the spring semester.
Due to varying learning obstacles as a result of COVID-19, the university allowed students to choose whether they wanted to receive a letter grade, course credit or no course credit in the event of a class failure. This option was made available at the end of the spring 2020 semester and then again at the end of the fall 2020 semester.
Students have expressed varying opinions regarding Urban’s decision.
Alex Outkou, ‘23, disagrees with Urban’s decision because of the difficulties of remote learning.
“Given that it was an option the past two semesters, and we’re still online as we were the past two semesters, it doesn’t really make sense for the pass/fail option to be removed,” Outkou said.
Outkou said there are many things that could go wrong when students are learning and taking exams in a remote environment, and having a pass/fail option would alleviate some of that stress.
Patrick Wise, ‘24, said students tend to academically challenge themselves more when they are given a pass/fail option because they worry less about the class’ potentially negative effect on their GPAs.
In contrast, Erik Glasthal, ‘22, agrees with Urban’s decision. Glasthal said he understands the decision because there have been no major changes to learning since the pandemic began over a year ago.
“If you count the summer, we’ve had three semesters to adjust to online learning,” Glasthal said. “That’s three semesters that the professors have had to adjust to online learning. I don’t think you can use the excuse that this is all new for us anymore.”
One of the reasons for Urban’s decision was that three consecutive semesters of pass/fail grading could impact a student’s chances of admission to graduate school and other potential professional opportunities.
However, Lexy Tracy, ‘21, believes graduate schools and future employers will likely understand why students opted to utilize pass/fail. Tracy said applications are not solely based on GPA and grades, but rather are viewed more holistically.
Joe Jaeger, ‘23, said many times, employers will consider an applicant’s overall GPA, but will not care if that applicant chose to use pass/fail.
Jaeger utilized the pass/fail option in a previous semester and said it helped relieve some of his issues with learning remotely.
Urban said in his email that another reason for retaining the standard grading system for this semester was to better recognize students who earn high grades.
“Some people I know think that it’s unfair because they’re putting in all this effort and then someone could get the same GPA as them by using pass/fail,” said Olivia Romano, ‘24.
Romano said she has no preference toward pass/fail, but believes students should have the option because every individual has different circumstances.
Meghan Wood, ‘23, said implementing pass/fail would alleviate pressure and benefit student mental health.
“The circumstances of our learning have not changed since the previous semesters, and in fact, I think they’re worse because we have no breaks this semester,” Wood said. “It’s frustrating that we’re not even getting a little wiggle room at all for our grades.”
Urban advised students who are struggling to utilize resources such as the Center for Academic Success, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Office of Academic Transitions, and the Writing & Math Centers.