Faculty Senate’s decides against pass/fail for the fall 2020 semester


Lindsay Ann Henefer

UNCW students study by the fountain.

Hannah Horowitz, Staff Writer

The Faculty Senate, the legislative body of the faculty, reconvened on Nov. 10 to discuss a number of items relating to the fall 2020 semester, including the policy on pass/fail. Several UNC System Schools such as UNC-Chapel Hill (UNC), North Carolina State University (NC State) and East Carolina University (ECU) plan to offer a pass/fail option due to the hardship that many students have faced due to COVID-19. 

The pass/fail option for fall 2020 originated from a proposal made by the UNCW Student Government Association (SGA). Despite not having a drastic change from in-person to all online classes, SGA still believed that an option for pass/fail should be made available to all students. 

Many students have experienced stressful and anxious feelings due to being on campus during a global pandemic and taking mostly online classes. These are extremely precarious times, and students feel that their academic performance during an international crisis should not be held to the usual high standard.  

James DeVita, the Chair of the Academic Standards Sub-Committee of the Faculty Senate spoke in regard to the pass/fail policy during the meeting. He stated that there was “very little interest” in moving forward with the motion from the faculty members themselves. 

The fact that there was a shift from some in-person to online course modalities at the beginning of the semester impacted this decision, as the universities who are offering pass/fail such as UNC, NC State, and ECU shifted to fully online formats farther into the semester. 

DeVita also mentioned that the discussions were centered around the flexibility that faculty members have been giving students throughout the semester, along with their delivery of high-quality coursework. He acknowledged that while other UNC System schools are moving in the direction of pass/fail, UNCW will not offer pass/fail for the fall 2020 semester. This information was relayed through an email to students on Thursday. 

“It’s beneficial because this semester overall has been more chaotic than last, given the de-densification and there being no fall break to ease stress,” said Justin Holloman, a sophomore and Resident Assistant at UNCW. “So no one is at peak academic performance. I believe there’s not a difference given that this semester and last semester classes were held online and not prepared well, on top of the fact that online learning is just not as effective.” 

Holloman goes on to say that he feels that his professors have not been as lenient with assignments this semester. He added that it feels like professors are taking advantage of the fact that they are not physically in class and are instead assigning more work compared to his similar courses last spring. 

UNCW students and parents find themselves on both conflicting sides of the argument. Some support the Faculty Senate’s decision, saying that their own hard work is being dismissed with the option of pass/fail. UNCW decided not to take part in the Dean’s List honors for the spring 2020 semester, which was directly impacted by the implementation of the pass/fail policy. 

Others argue that this fall semester has been extremely challenging, and the adjustment to a full semester of online courses warrants the usage of pass/fail. Many students have vocalized their struggle with the online course modality, stating that it does not define their intelligence nor academic ability yet still has a negative impact on their GPA. 

“Having pass/fail is for the greater good,” said Holloman. “Not being on the Dean’s List is something you can explain away when it’s not on your application to an internship or company or grad school.”