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Pass/Fail or letter grade: Belmont to give students a choice

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

With only two weeks left of classes, Belmont will offer pass/fail as an option to all students in a one-time exception for the Spring 2020 semester.

Each current student will be allowed to mark up to seven credit hours as pass/fail after final grades have been posted, according to an email University Provost Dr. Thomas Burns sent out Wednesday afternoon.

The option will allow Belmont students to select whether letter grades will be assigned to their performance in a course or not. If not, they will simply be marked as passing or failing the course, which will not impact their GPA.

Burns said the decision to make pass/fail opt-in was made so that each student could choose the best option for their academic performance in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

“This allows students to pursue their best graded outcome to the benefit of their overall academic performance, while also providing an option for those courses where the graded outcome was lower than expected,” said Burns in the email.

Senior Katie McAdams, whose class schedule includes 21 credit hours, is pleased with the choice.

“It’s definitely going to be good for me to not be as stressed. I was having a lot of anxiety about trying to maintain the quality of work or not being in the classroom and not having my professors and my peers with me.”

McAdams recognizes that students experiencing online classes for the first time might find it hard to stay motivated.

“You’re sitting at your table, like looking at a screen for hours, right? And that’s just not fun and not engaging in any way.”

Despite the difficulties associated with a major online workload, McAdams knows she has to finish the semester strong, she said.

“Obviously, that doesn’t mean that I get to stop trying, but I can at least not be in a panic about the quality of my work. I’m thinking I’ll probably end up doing it for third-year writing and my health communications class, just because those are the ones that are the most time-consuming right now. And it’s been really hard for me to just sit in front of my computer for hours every day.”

Sophomore Brooke Elliott was also glad to see Belmont provide a pass/fail option.

Her friends at other universities have already been granted that option, and she is pleased to have the option available to her as well, she said.

“I thought it would be nice just because online classes are a lot different than in-person, obviously,” Elliott said.

“But it’s also hard sometimes to motivate myself to do work, but when we were on campus I had a set routine. It takes the pressure off of keeping that bar as high as it would be if we had classes on campus.”

While she feels reasonably confident in herself, Elliott is glad to have a fall-back option if she is surprised to find a low grade.

“If a grade in one of my classes ends up being pretty low, I would use the pass/fail option for that class,” Elliott said.

In the email, Burns said the difficulties that students like McAdams and Elliott are facing were considered when deciding to make pass/fail an option.

“As students, you have had to adapt to new learning methods while also coping with varying degrees of impact on your personal lives,” said Burns.

The email ended with Burns explaining that details regarding how and why students can opt in will be addressed in the coming days.

Article written by Justin Wagner and Evan Dorian.

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