Talia Bromberg ’20
To my fellow abled, economically-secure, White students:
It’s praxis time. Four years of elite, expensive, liberal arts school education has been leading to this moment. Three semesters of Core, a gender and ethnic studies requirement, and countless hours spent reading Lorde and Baldwin have led to this moment — it’s praxis time.
We’re being asked to support “Universal Pass,” a policy in which all students who receive a D or above receive a Pass. Students who do not meet the criteria to pass will automatically receive an Incomplete for the semester, giving them more time to finish course content and pass the class. Instead of receiving an Incomplete, students can also have the course removed from their transcript and have the designation of “No Record Pandemic” added to signify to future employers and graduate school admissions officers that they were experiencing extenuating circumstances due to Covid-19.
I’m writing this from the comfort of my bed, in a room that I have all to myself. I just ate breakfast. Leaving Scripps was hard. I don’t want to minimize that. Isolation has triggered past trauma. I don’t have my own workspace. I often feel like I’m walking on eggshells to avoid fighting with my parents. And, of course, I’m grieving my last semester at Scripps.
But, I could probably still get pretty high grades this semester not because I’m harder working, or smarter, or more deserving than my peers. I could probably get high grades because, although this crisis affects everyone, it does not affect everyone evenly.
Acknowledging the hardships of others doesn’t make your hardships any less real. This isn’t the oppression Olympics. There is enough shitty stuff in the world to go around— but it is dishonest to pretend that all of our challenges affect us in the same way. It is dishonest to ignore your privilege.
My mom hasn’t lost her job. I have a nice house to sleep in. No one in my family has become seriously ill as a result of the pandemic, and we have access to quality medical care. Things are hard AND I could still probably get high grades this semester.
So, if I can do well — maybe even raise my grades — why shouldn’t I be able to? Why can’t pass/no credit be an option for those who need it? Even if others can’t raise their grades, shouldn’t I still have that option?
It’s not that no one should be able to raise their grades if some can’t. It’s that the main reason grades matter in college is for students who want to continue their education in graduate school or medical school. Medical schools like Tufts University School of Medicine, Michigan State, and University of Rochester have indicated that students who have the option to opt-in for letter grades should do so. Moreover, Penn State College of Medicine and University of Nevada, Reno will not accept Pass/Fail grades unless it was at the behest of the applicant’s undergraduate institution’s.
If the grading policy is universal, these are no longer issues: Universal Pass prevents grad schools from having the ability to hold the “P” on your transcript against you.
In an ideal world, grad schools would recognize systemic inequalities, so a “P” on your transcript during a pandemic would be a non-issue. But, we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world with structural oppression; the least we can do is sacrifice a few points off our GPA’s in order to support our entire Scripps community.
This is a call to action: if we really meant all those things we said in class—that structural racism is bad, that inequality is real, that we oppose ableism, the patriarchy, and white supremacy—now’s the time to put our money where our theory is. Now’s the time to speak up, email your professors, and support your fellow students by demanding Universal Pass. #nobodyfailsatscripps
Image Credit: Scripps College