It was disheartening to read the email by the provost regarding pass/fail petitions. The email was more like inspirational advice rather than a true reply to students seeking help. The email focused on how we should challenge ourselves to be an exceptional institution against others like the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, when it should have focused on the problems here at EKU. The example that the provost used was irrelevant and illogical in a sense that this is a completely different situation. In that instance, it was just one class that was affected for some students, not all classes for every single student campus-wide like we are facing now. Secondly, students were not locked down in their houses. These situations are not equal.
Back when this all began, when I heard the news that University of Kentucky and Berea college were going to transition the rest of the semester to online, I hoped that Eastern Kentucky University would not follow suit. But very quickly after, EKU joined other institutions across Kentucky, and across the nation, to switch to online courses.
I was really concerned because I didn’t know how it would change things. How would the professors give lectures, how would they conduct quizzes/exams and how would they offer office hours? It meant I would have to get used to the new formats and the new environments in just the span of a week, in order to maintain my standards of academic performance.
On principles, I do not typically study at home because home is a place to rest and spend time with family, so making the change has been extremely difficult. Even though professors are working hard to transfer their lectures into videos, it’s very hard for some students to take lectures online because they are easily distracted by this new setting.
In my case, I have a hard time with online lectures because I find myself being distracted by background noises whenever I try to listen to audio recordings from my professors. A friend of mine told me that she is having a hard time with recorded lectures because the professor no longer elaborates on the content as much as he used to. In class, he would ask students questions to be sure they were following him, but now that he can’t do that, he just keeps going. Making students pause the video and find the answers by themselves or send an email and get a response later.
Another struggle is that many EKU students have one or more jobs. They pay bills, rent, car insurance and so on. Because of this epidemic, some students have lost their jobs. A lot of these students are worried about how they will get by these next months. My spouse lost her job temporarily because the daycare she works at shut down until further notice. We filed for unemployment, but we haven’t heard anything back yet. We were not able to pay our car insurance. We are certainly not able to pay our rent.
What makes it worse in my situation is the fact that I love people, I am a people person. I feel empty and lonely without them. Being locked down at home 24/7 has caused me a lot of anxiety and depression while I am also worried about my family, friends and my coworkers. It is really frustrating not to be able to knock on the door to see my professors and ask questions. It is really frustrating not to be able to see my mentee and students who used to come to see me for tutoring. Some people say it is still the same except everything is online. Some say it is a good moment to challenge ourselves and prove ourselves. But it’s not the same, and it’s not the time to prove things like this.
The world is so far from normal, but we are supposed to be graded under a normal grading system? The petition by Ryan Rhode on change.org to implement pass/fail at EKU has almost 3,000 signatures. Several prestigious, well-known institutions are accepting pass/fail grading for this semester because of the coronavirus epidemic. It has given those students a cushion to alleviate insurmountable stress with regard to their GPA.
I am applying for a medical school in the future. The medical school admission body (AAMC) decided that they will accept prerequisites that are changed to pass/fail. A lot of institutions are seeing this and accepting a more student-friendly policy. EKU should hear the opinions from students and give us the opportunity to choose pass/fail grading.