EDITORIAL: Extending the withdrawal date is not enough: Let students pick PDF again

Followers of the WKU Herald Twitter show that they would support a Pass/D/Fail option for the Fall 2020 semester. 

Herald Editorial Board

Issue: Because of the mixture of online, in-person and hybrid class formatting of the Fall 2020 semester, WKU’s students are having a hard time keeping up with their classes and schoolwork.

Our stance: A PDF grading option should be offered to students for the Fall 2020 semester, just as it was in the Spring 2020 semester, when students balanced the switch from in-person to online classes for the first time.

Following a mid-semester switch from in-person to online classes, WKU offered its students the option to receive their final semester grades in Spring 2020 in a pass/D/fail format.

The PDF format allowed students — both undergraduate and graduate — to choose to alter the default A-F grading format in most classes and receive either a pass, D or a fail for their classes.

This option is not being offered this semester despite the discrepancies between in-person, online and hybrid courses and the switch to online classes after Thanksgiving Break.

WKU stated that the switch to a PDF grading option was reasonable in the spring because “[COVID-19] has so dramatically disrupted the lives of students and faculty; economically challenged students face severe technology access issues; many faculty are shifting to an online modality for the first time in their careers; and significant uncertainty remains about the effects of the virus on the world, nation, higher education, students, staff, and faculty.”

These problems still exist in the Fall 2020 semester, on top of the new problems that have come from a mismatch of online, in-person and the new format of hybrid classes.

Now more than ever, students deserve to choose to grade themselves on a PDF system. The extension of the deadline to drop a class just doesn’t cut it.

On Nov. 2, the WKU Office of the Registrar announced that “the deadline to withdraw for full semester and 2nd bi-term courses has been extended until Dec. 4, 2020.” Originally, the last day to drop a class with a W was Nov. 2 for full semester classes and Nov. 16 for second bi-term classes.

Students are appreciative to the university for extending the withdrawal deadline, but this does nothing to help further the education of WKU Hilltoppers. Dropping a class does not give the student any credit for having taken the class at all, whereas the PDF grading option would allow a student the chance to receive credit without impacting their GPA if they earn a pass.

This semester, as students have tried to balance a different schedule for every day of the week thanks to the mixture of hybrid, online and in-person classes, schoolwork has become a much heavier load than previous semesters. It is hard enough to balance a schedule that is unorganized and chaotic, and it is even harder to remember, complete and turn in assignments on time on top of remembering when to attend class.

Regardless of the difficulty of the average student’s schedule, this semester has been difficult enough on its own. COVID-19 numbers at WKU and in Kentucky are on the rise, meaning that this virus is not going anywhere — at least this semester. Many students have been jumping in and out of quarantine all semester due to repetitive exposure to the virus, further setting back students’ priority of schoolwork. 

The university needs to accept that this semester is just as experimental and horrifying for the students as the spring semester was, making students all the more deserving of an opportunity to continue to further their education at WKU without fear of lower grades hurting their future.