A Call for Compassion and Understanding

Today, I am hosting a guest blog post by Robert Lydon, a first-year student at BC Law.

I cannot describe the relief I felt when I received the Dean’s email about the grading policy change. Relief because I would not have to choose between my family, my health, and my academic career. Relief because I now have the flexibility to be there for those who need me. 

I am just one of the students the administration probably had in mind when they rendered this decision. As of last week, I’ve learned that my brother, father, and brother-in-law are now unemployed after construction was shut down in Boston. They are all concerned about how they are going to pay their bills. My mother is a disabled two-time cancer survivor, and I cannot express how dangerous this illness could be for her. Despite this, she continues to help care for my grandmother, who is recovering from a recent hip fracture and is also extremely vulnerable. I live at home with my parents and am worried about their health, economic well-being, and housing security. I am far from the only one in our community affected, nor am I the most adversely affected by this global upheaval.

Many will face challenges that seem so distant to those of us relatively unencumbered by this crisis. Some students are adapting to time zone changes, others are finding the rapid switch to an online environment a difficult obstacle to overcome. Even still, some are ill or immunocompromised, caring for family, or facing extraordinary financial and emotional burdens. I ask you not to write off these members of the community, and instead, show them the empathy and compassion that the students at BC Law are known for.

I know many of you felt the same relief I described above, while others were overwhelmed by disappointment and anguish. All of these feelings are valid, and it’s not wrong to disagree with the administration’s decision. I empathize with and share the desire for the chance to improve our grades, as well as the anxiety about employment. However, given the extraordinary times, I ask that you reconsider before making comments that downplay the hardships that some of us are facing. Suggestions that that the majority of students are not affected whatsoever, that law students already spend their time secluded, or any other sweeping generalizations about the student body appear to come from a privileged position. This suggests that some members of our community are discounting the experiences of others, blinded to the cascading impacts this crisis has had and will inevitably have on a majority of students.

There have been many suggestions made for an alternative grading policy taking some form of an optional pass/fail. The issue with this approach? It will have exactly the same negative consequences as traditional grading, perpetuating the problem the administration set out to solve in the first place. Pass grades will be looked at suspiciously by employers, disadvantaging those who felt they had to take the pass/fail option due to the extenuating circumstances surrounding these unusual times. As some of the student leaders in our community have described, an option of pass/fail would present an illusory choice.

In weighing the pros and cons, I realize that a mandatory pass/fail system was ultimately chosen not because it is completely fair, but because it is the fairest given the circumstances. Given this truly unprecedented situation, I believe that in weighing the opportunity of some students to improve against the certainty of far reaching negative effects on others, the administration’s decision was the best one. 

Bob Lydon would like to point out that his classmates Yeram Choi and Gabbie Kim made significant contributions to the writing of this blog.

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