The fall 2020 semester started with students optimistic to enter a classroom once again as they registered for their classes, but the chances of returning to in-person are still slim to none at the moment. Cases are rising nationally and, inversely, the odds of in-person instruction fell. Students are in the same place they were last year, facing “Zoom fatigue” and turning in countless assignments that feel like busywork. Zoom fatigue is the term used to describe the “tiredness, worry, or burnout” that comes along with the constant use of Zoom and other online resources instead of face-to-face interaction. With the current semester being almost entirely virtual, students are experiencing this fatigue in extreme amounts.
The only difference between this semester and last semester is the fact that students are not given the choice of whether to make their classes pass/fail.
Last semester, when the decision to make all classes online was made final, an email was sent out notifying University of Arizona students that they can have the option to make their classes pass/fail. The reason for this was to “[ensure] the quality of instruction and your learning, subject to the constraints imposed by the pandemic.” The pandemic has only gotten worse but the expectations that the administration holds for students have only gotten higher. Students are expected to be taught in the same conditions as last semester, but with fewer adjustments.
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Along with the troubles of Zoom fatigue, over 2,400 students have reported testing positive for COVID-19 leading them to be in isolation for 10-14 days with little to no academic help. Cases within the UA community are substantially higher than they were last semester and the modifications being made to help these students who have fallen victim to COVID-19 are basically non-existent. Having to balance symptoms and schoolwork can be overwhelming to a student and with the number of cases on campus, it can be extremely difficult for teachers to accommodate every diagnosed student.
Not only can isolation have a substantial impact on one’s academics, but it can also severely impact the mental health of a student. Depression and anxiety are direct results of the quarantine. While in isolation, the only contact students face is a call sent out every couple of days or sometimes not at all attempting to ensure the safety and health of the student. This call is nowhere near the help the students in isolation need to adjust to this change and many are left feeling alone and anxious during this very scary time. With the anxiety students are feeling and the struggles of online school, an adjustment needs to be made to ensure the health and safety of the students.
A petition to give students the option to pass/fail certain classes has made its way around campus and has received over 9,000 signatures. Despite major changes in the accessibility of material and the many downsides of online school, the standards for scholarships are the same. Many students express concerns in meeting these standards and fear the loss of the financial aid they need to make college graduation attainable. The comment section of the petition is full of students who fear this semester will be their last or that the repercussions of online school will affect the rest of their college career and life beyond these four years. Along with financial concerns, the comments also express the frustration students are facing with the transition and how they do not feel heard in this time of need. The struggles they are facing online school are not being addressed in ways that can make an impact. Many students have felt as though they have learned nothing and see no use in attending classes when the benefit is not apparent.
With the option to pass/fail classes, students will be able to maintain the GPA they need to succeed while demonstrating that they have basic knowledge of the material for the course. With scholarships and the mental health of students on the line and given the current circumstances, the pass/fail option is not an unreasonable request.
My plea to UA administration is to give students the option to pass/fail classes. See the struggle of those students behind the screens and respond.
Payton is a sophomore majoring in journalism and information cciences and eSociety. She loves to cook and golf in her free time. Follow Payton Toomey on Twitter