Letter to the Editor: Our circumstances haven’t changed. Why have Pass-Fail provisions?


Eric Henry

Students walk around a mostly empty campus during the pandemic.

On January 4, DePaul students received an email stating that the expanded pass-fail provisions that were enacted at the beginning of the pandemic amid widespread civil unrest had been suspended going into winter quarter. Two days later there was an insurrection at the nation’s capital. A week after that there was another impeachment. In the time since then, there has been a sub-par rollout of vaccinations and the discovery of several new variants of Covid-19.

All of this is to say that removing these provisions at this moment makes absolutely no sense. I know that all of us want to pretend that the Covid-19 pandemic is over and we have the vaccine so it’s only a matter of time. But it is insulting that the university has deemed the suffering — physical and emotional —  students are still facing illegitimate just because we’re a year into this. Nothing has changed since last quarter. Students are still facing illness, loss and personal issues that would not exist at this scale under normal circumstances. We are still taking classes online, a system that has stagnated since we moved to this platform almost a year ago.

An empty classroom set aside for socially distanced learning at DePaul’s Loop campus. (Eric Henry)

The university has not provided meaningful, widespread support to students beyond these provisions. Stripping students of pass-fail provisions right now is insulting and suggests, like almost every action for the last year, that DePaul’s commitment to Vincentian values exists only as a marketing ploy. Respecting the basic dignity of students includes acknowledging how much suffering this pandemic has caused and allowing concessions congruent with that suffering.

DePaul has ignored requests from different student groups on this topic and the petition currently circulating will probably be ignored too. But I urge the university’s administration to consider the harm that they are doing to students. Pretending that everything is just fine and acting like we aren’t living through a pandemic is going to make this worse. Students facing medical or financial crises are not going to stay at the university if they feel as though they aren’t supported. Students dealing with the short and long-term effects of Covid-19, something that cannot be standardized or predicted, will not stay when they have to decide between taking low grades because they can’t focus on school work or leaving and going somewhere else when they feel better. The university has not thought through the long-term effects of this decision and has not budged over the last month and a half, despite a constant stream of disruptive events that would justify concessions and support measures even if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic.

DePaul never should have removed the original measures in the first place. Reinstating them is the only course of action consistent with the values the university espouses at every turn and the reality that we are living through.