Privilege that Perpetuates Inequity

By: Briana Hayes 


In speaking with certain higher-ups, particularly those in frequent correspondence with the Board of Regents about an opt-in pass/fail system, I have come across the common argument that opt-in pass/fail would, and I quote, “reward the less motivated students to the detriment of the more scholarly students.” 


I would like to take this opportunity to first clarify myself. I did not relocate four hours away from my home and family to a university where I barely knew a soul and a mere 8.3% of the population identified with my race to be a “less motivated” student who scantily scraped by in class. The knowledge I acquire is one of the very few things I have that no one can take away from me. I value it, dearly. In academics, I strive to excel.  


To suggest that I —or any student for that matter— would advocate for social justice reform that would benefit “less motivated students” at the expense of  “scholarly students” is insensitive. Not only do I find it insulting, I find it to have microaggressive undertones when expressed to me directly; furthermore, business owners instructing students to “reach higher and not lower” is particularly humiliating, especially to those that are disadvantaged. 


My hope is that the Board of Regents and certain legislators would not argue against the implementation of an opt-in pass/fail system by citing a false sentiment of students hoping to lower academic standards.  


It is insulting to students who have inadequate access to internet. 


It is insensitive to students who live in dysfunctional homes. 


It is ignorant to the pressure of students who are caring for sick family members. 


It is hurtful to students who have to work to help support their family now. 


It is damaging to the students who have lost their jobs and are unable to support themselves.  


No amount of resources the Board of Regents could ever offer would be enough to solve the deeply rooted problems some students went home to this past semester, but they do have the power to do one thing that could help lighten the burden. They still have the power to implement an opt-in pass/fail system along with the hundreds of other institutions across our nation that have already done so. If even Harvard, Princeton, and Yale have made provisions for those who are adversely affected, why can’t we? 


It is time out for excuses. No, opt-in pass/fail will not cause difficulty for students when they apply to graduate school. All but four (three of which are under the jurisdiction of the Board of Regents) of the 150 top ranked colleges and universities in the U.S. have implemented grade reform. No, HOPE and Zell Miller will not be difficult to calculate with opt-in pass/fail. Only letter grades are calculated into the scholarship eligibility. No, employers will not penalize job applicants who opted for a pass amidst a pandemic and failing economy. 


The Board of Regents’ failure to act is only perpetuating inequity. It is putting underprivileged students at a greater disadvantage for graduate school, scholarships, internships, and job opportunities. Whereas students who had access to resources will ultimately go unaffected, those who did not will suffer. It is more than just students’ GPAs at stake. It is their very future. 


To let them eat cake is damning. 

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