Nothing is the same for college students, thanks to the coronavirus.
Most have moved out of dorms. Their classes have moved online. Labs and performing arts classes now bear little resemblance to normal.
But one thing hasn't changed, at least at some colleges: They're still being graded.
A chorus of students from across the country is lobbying schools to stop grading on a traditional letter scale this semester. Instead, students are asking for a pass-or-fail system.
It's hard enough to manage the major disruptions caused by COVID-19 without having to worry about grades, they argue. Moving to online classes brings its own difficulties, too, as some subjects typically require in-person, hands-on elements that don't translate well to video.
Pass/fail grading allows students to receive either a P for pass or F for fail instead of a standard A-F letter grade. Students in favor of this grading option say it helps ensure they learn the required material sufficiently without adding in the pressure of letter grades.
Their efforts have gained traction in some states.
In Florida, three large state universities announced March 24 they would switch to pass/fail grading in response to student petitions.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison declared on March 26 that the "unprecedented situation" called for a pass/fail grading option. Allowing the option means other academic policies may have to adjust, too, the school said.
"Maintaining instruction and the quality of academics is and has been our most important campus goal, short of preserving the health and safety of our community," the university said. "Recognizing that our lives have been significantly impacted by COVID-19, our grading and credit policies must adapt."
But so far, efforts by some students haven't succeeded in convincing administrators. Some colleges have made small concessions: The University of Arizona is allowing students to request pass/fail grading from professors.
The argument in favor of pass/fail grading focuses on how students from more privileged backgrounds likely will fare better in the coronavirus-era environment of online courses and staying at home.
All students have to weather the pandemic, but some have lost their income, and their parents have lost income. Some don't have family safety nets to fall back on. Some are struggling to find a safe place to stay or healthy food to eat. Some are getting sick, or their family members are. Some don't have reliable internet access.
The fair move is to take grades off the table for now, advocates say.
"The students that may be subject to homes in which they don't have decent internet access, or they're concerned about their parents and very anxious about what's going to be happening for the rest of the world, those are the students that are going to be very, very disenfranchised," said Alejandro Urbina, a 19-year-old sophomore honors student studying aerospace engineering at Arizona State University, who is lobbying for pass/fail.
"And there are many more of them than there are students that might not get their 4.0."
The argument against pass/fail
In an emailed response to Urbina, Vice Provost Frederick Corey explained that ASU has more technology and experience for working online than other universities. He said grades are important to students, employers and graduate programs. It wouldn’t be fair to high-achieving students to institute pass/fail options, Corey wrote.
“To award everyone performing at A, B, C or D levels a grade of Passing is unfair to those who excel in their classes and could, ultimately, be a significant disservice to students with high aspirations for graduate school, law school, medical school or other endeavors where grades play an important role in competitive admissions,” Corey’s email to Urbina said.
But at the University of Arizona, administrators are now allowing students to change a course to pass/fail if they want. An individual student can ask for a class to be counted as pass/fail for them up until the last day of classes, an email to students from Provost Liesl Folks states.
Some colleges already changed grading
Ivy League schools, the country's most elite institutions, have largely put some type of alternative grading in place, either as an option or mandatory change. Students at some of these universities are now pushing for "universal pass," where every student passes this semester. Students at Yale University, for instance, are now behind a movement called "No Fail Yale."
Clemson University in South Carolina said a few of its courses could be taken pass/fail, but otherwise the university has not heeded a student petition with thousands of signatures.
Aleah Cherry, who started the Clemson petition, said she was concerned about keeping up with the demands of being a STEM major in online classes.
“I started voicing my concerns to my friends when I realized they were worried too,” Cherry said. “I have friends with ADHD and learning disabilities who already struggle with learning in the classroom and others who have never taken online classes, and we are concerned that the switch to online will negatively affect (our) academic performance.”
Little time to adjust to online classes
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville will allow students to opt in to a pass-fail grading scale for most undergraduate and some graduate classes, campus officials announced last week.
Haylee Maniaci, a fourth-year psychology student at UT, said she was "overwhelmed" when she first learned classes were shifting online. As cancellations and closures across Knoxville piled up, things got much harder.
"I am a restaurant manager, and we are working a lot just to keep the doors open," said Maniaci, who is managing her course load and her job.
She lives alone in Knoxville and is working more not just because her employers need her, but also because she needs the income. School is the last thing on her mind.
"There are just too many other stressors going on in the world right now," Maniaci said. "I had two exams yesterday, which I couldn't focus on because I was at work all day trying to make enough money to keep (the restaurant) open and stay employed."
Contributing: Zoe Nicholson of The Greenville News in South Carolina and Allie Klouse of the Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee
Contact reporter Rachel Leingang by email at email@example.com or by phone at 602-444-8157, or find her on Twitter and Facebook.