Pass/Fail: In Defense of the Remote Learner

On Oct. 23, Vice President for Communications Laura Jack informed the student body that the Academic Affairs Board “formally voted not to implement a P/X option this fall.” As an institution that claims to be working to address and solve the issue of equity, as seen through the No-Loan Initiative and the First@Colgate Program, this vote undermines the work that Colgate has done addressing the issues of inequity in the classroom, particularly in this Fall 2020 semester. I am beside myself that one week later, President Casey emailed the members of the Colgate University Community with an update from the Task Force on Remote Learning stating that “equity” required special attention in the remote setting. If voting “no” on the P/X option is Colgate’s way of demonstrating how “faculty are working and thinking more than ever about [inequity],” this institution should be ashamed of itself.

The Administration and Academic Affairs Board apparently fails to truly understand the difficulties of being a remote Colgate student this semester. From international students having to cope with difficult time-zone differences, low internet bandwidth in some households, to difficult and stressful family situations, the differences between a hybrid and remote Colgate learner could not be starker. The Brookings Institute also highlights these differences by showing how low-performing students do their best with in-person instruction and students in a low socio-economic class perform worse in an online setting than their more affluent counterparts. Colgate is not being fair and impartial by expecting hybrid and remote learners to perform at the same level as they do in a normal classroom setting, and if Colgate is truly committed to addressing the issue of inequity, the Academic Advisory Board has a responsibility to convene again and vote to pass a P/X option. 

Regardless, online classes are not an adequate barometer of the potential that Colgate Students can achieve, nor should they be. Colgate prides itself on providing a high-quality, liberal arts education within a small classroom environment where students can learn and thrive amongst their peers. Being in an online setting already takes away from this culture, seeing as though Colgate had no online instruction prior to Fall 2020. Colgate is not itself, and to expect its students to perform at the same standard as before is illogical. 

Even the counseling center at Colgate finds itself incredibly busy because of how detrimental this pandemic has been on the mental health of students. What more does the Administration need to see how students are suffering academically, physically and emotionally? I feel ashamed to be a part of an institution that can one week, with no thorough explanation, vote against a P/X option, to our President saying the next week that the faculty understands the issue of inequity. President Casey and the Academic Advisory Board must do the right thing and reconvene and pass a resolution in support of a P/X option.