support equitable & accessible education
Though the extension of the NRO election period provides students with more time to assess their capability to perform well in their digital classes, those who are ultimately unable to do so as a result of distance learning and compounding impacts of COVID-19 are still at high risk of failing. The stress of this pandemic may surpass many students’ abilities to earn a passing grade and the current system puts our most vulnerable students at risk of failing or receiving a mandatory incomplete; it deepens pre-existing inequalities.
The current “no-fail” option in place is for students to withdraw from a course at the very end of the semester. While this is technically not failing a class, it means that the student will not receive credit for their work during the semester.
If students fail due to unforeseen obstacles brought on by the current pandemic, and the only option left for them is to withdraw at the end of a semester, they will not get credit for the coursework they completed. Many students will have to pay for an extra semester of tuition, take classes elsewhere, graduate late, or drop out of college entirely. Not everyone can afford an extra semester, or cover the cost of additional classes. This would disproportionately impact students who are already lacking resources.
COVID-19 has neutralized any equalizing force to be had by all students coming together to learn on the same campus. If you’d like an example of how this works, please check out Our Stories. These are not hypothetical situations.
Each professor has the discretion to decide how accommodating to be. Many professors have been wonderfully accommodating, but certainly not all. Not all students have been able to receive support, even after working with their professors and Dean of Studies. Not all students are in positions to firmly advocate for themselves, and many students have had negative experiences with professors after speaking up.
In this time of added stress, we do not want the most vulnerable students, who may not have the energy or capacity to speak up or organize to try to get the resources they need, to be left behind.
Furthermore, when a student’s needs in these exceptional circumstances go beyond the scope of what a single professor is able to influence, having an overarching policy would be essential.
To read examples of students expressing individual concerns, please see the Our Stories posts on Nobody Fails VC Facebook and Instagram pages.
One important factor to keep in mind when thinking about how Vassar’s policies will interact with those of other institutions is that it's not just Vassar that’s affected by this global pandemic! Everyone is going to be affected (if they have not already), including every learning institution, and it is cruel to ignore student suffering that is happening right here, right now in favor of preserving an imagined future normality. It is also still undecided how schools moving forward will alter their admissions policies because of Covid-19. For example, Vassar has elected to become test optional for the next admissions season in light of Covid-19.