Monday, October 25, 2021

Students react to credit/no-credit grading option

October 28, 2020

James Madison freshman Jackie Lasselle and MSU professor Garth Sabo share some advice to help you succeed in your online classes this semester. They talk about ways all students can stay organized and on track during this rollercoaster of a semester, all while emphasizing the importance of managing stress and describing their methods to handling a heavy workload.

Produced by: Thomas Ruth

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Photo by Thomas Ruth | The State News

Anna Rose Benson has never experienced a semester as difficult as this one. 

As a business marketing and Spanish junior, she knew online learning would be a challenge. Combining that with higher-level junior year courses, which don’t ever slow down, hasn’t been easy. She hoped for a period of grace during this semester, where everyone is learning together. For her, that never came.

This semester has caused Benson’s mental health to deteriorate. It hasn’t been what it was in-person. Not only that, but the workload is “uniquely difficult."

Benson knows she isn’t alone in this either. Every friend she’s talked to hasn’t been having a good semester. From everyone Benson talked to, no one was on top of everything. She thinks that the new No Record-COVID 19 grading policy, or NR-C, that President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. has approved isn’t what students want.

“MSU is misunderstanding what we want,” Benson said. “I don’t know how students could spell it out more clearly because there’s been petitions for lowering tuition, making classes easier. Now you have three days out of this next semester to relax but that’s it, no break.” 

History sophomore Gabriel Gurulé has been struggling with online school. He sees Stanley's perspective as he implements NR-C, but given the circumstances, doesn't think it's enough.

“I appreciate what he’s doing for students that are at risk for failing, but I don’t think he’s going far enough to assisting every student,” Gurulé said.

In an approach that Gurulé likened to putting a "Band-Aid on a bullet wound," he believes that there are flaws in the plan. Students who fail will still have to pay to retake classes and instead of pass/fail going on the transcript it is an omission due to COVID-19.

Gurulé believes that what was done in the spring semester should be brought back. 

Finance sophomore Grant Wills is disappointed. He said that the policy is pretty useless because if you’re passing classes in the first then it does nothing to help you at all. 

“It just provides no benefit to the general student population,” Wills said. 

Electrical engineering senior Soby Farrukh has a packed schedule this semester. He’s taking 16 credits, all of which are engineering classes, and it has not been easy. For him, if he gets a 1.5 or below, it’s not worth it to retake the class. 

The workload has been piling on for Farrukh week by week. As the end of the semester is approaching, there are more projects, more homework assignments and more exams. Professors keep assigning work and don’t understand that students are overwhelmed with videos, lectures and homework.

“They don’t realize that we are in our apartment or in our dorm all day," Farrukh said. "We can’t go out because of quarantine. We’re doing insane stuff all day. It’s not easy taking care of your mental health while having the load of college.”

Farrukh believes that the university has issued this policy just to look like they are doing something to help students. He believes that having the pass/fail option last semester was just some leverage students could rely on in the end.  

Farrukh suggested that an alternative to Stanley's NR-C plan could be to allow students to retake the classes for half off, as he sees students struggling with financial issues.

Physiology sophomore Emily Morales’ initial reaction to the new policy was disappointment. 

On top of not knowing how graduate schools will react to the marking on the transcript, she believes that it’s more of an incentive to fail almost because if a student is doing poorly they might as well give up, not have it affect your GPA and then do it again next year. 

Morales believes that Stanley should be more understanding.

“He should understand that a lot of people are under so much mental strain, mental stress,” Morales said. “Not only are all our classes online but they tend to overlap so much and take away from all of our free time.”

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She believes the current climate in the United States also plays a big part in affecting students’ mental health as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to set highs in daily cases, social justice movements make their way throughout the country daily and Election Day waits right around the corner.

Morales said the quality of classes has also decreased significantly. In addition to online learning being less than ideal for most students. Morales thinks that classes now consist of so much busy work in comparison to last year.

Morales has felt overwhelmed with the semester online.

“It feels like a sin almost to take a break because if I do that I’ll get behind so much," she said. "There’s exams, tests, quizzes like every other day."

The NR-C decision will leave many students at a crossroads. As they struggle to keep up, they will be forced to decide which will take a hit: GPA or bank account.

Even though journalism sophomore Kevin McCormick Jr. isn’t in a position where he would need to consider the grading policy, he would still rather take the GPA hit and get credit for the class. 

“I just don’t want to spend more money to be here longer than I have to,” McCormick said. 

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