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Bradley details ‘pass-fail’ grading option; advises students to opt-in with cautions

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On Wednesday, Bradley University sent out the detailed plan for the “pass-fail” grading option that will be available to both undergraduate and graduate students. In the plan, Bradley advises students to consult with their academic advisers and the financial aid office before choosing the option.

In the three-page policy that the university published, course instructors will submit students’ grades after the final exam as usual. Then students will have three business days to decide if they want to opt-in the pass-fail grading for any specific classes on Webster. If a student wishes to maintain the original grade, then no action will be taken.

If they choose to do so, students will receive a “pass” for any course with the original grade is “C” or better; Any “D” or “F” letter grade will convert to “failed.” Any pass-fail grade will not be included into the GPA calculation.

Students will be able to use the “pass” grade to satisfy any course prerequisite at Bradley if it requires a specific grade. But students are advised to choose the pass-fail option with an abundance of caution, as it may lead to issues when applying to graduate schools, medical schools, law schools or other professional licensing. The grading option may also cause complications in one’s financial aid.

In the document, Bradley is asking all academic advisers to make sure students understand the potential ramifications of the decisions. The university will also set up a financial aid hotline to help students navigate through the situation.

Before the university announced the decision to offer the “pass-fail” grading option last Monday, an online petition, started by freshman psychology major Staci Babich, attracted wide support.

“It will help alleviate a lot of stress on students, including myself,” Babich said in an interview last week. “It’s just harder to focus, and we didn’t sign up for online classes … Communication’s been lost with study groups. I know there’s virtual office hours but that’s not the same atmosphere of being able to ask questions.”

Babich’s petition, published on on March 31, garnered 705 signatures out of its goal of 1000 before she shut it down in response to the university’s announcement.

“I know people are struggling to find shelter, food, worrying about their families,” Babich said. “It’s just not a good system. Students shouldn’t be penalized if we have to, say, work, or take care of our family, and we can’t get to our assignments.”

Students who signed the petition could comment to explain their reasoning below. One such comment stated:

“I’m signing because my mental health is the worst it’s been in years as this pandemic very quickly upended my life, along with the lives of everyone I know.”

Other comments cite a lack of workspace, stress and the need to serve as a caretaker as their reasons for signing.

Babich said she was inspired by many other colleges, such as Harvard, Stanford, Illinois State and Northeastern, that have already taken this step for some–though not all–of their classes.

Universities have applied various methods to providing for pass-fail classes; for example, certain undergraduate degrees at Harvard allow students to select two classes to be graded as pass-fail, while Harvard law school has made all classes pass/fail.

“It helps a lot of the stress and anxiety for students, so that’s good news,” said Babich after Bradley announced that it will offer the option on April 6. “I don’t know how much I actually had to do with it… but if [I] did I’m happy to have played a part in it.”

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