I spent the night of March 6 out with my suitemates. Out of sheer and unprecedented luck, all of us had ended up going out together. It was a typical Yale night partying: Pregaming in our suite, jumping between frats and a trip to G-Heav to top it off. We ended the night taking each other’s makeup off, eating each other’s snacks and unable to stifle our laughter at all the silly pictures we took.
Today, 20 days later, I am home. I’m spending the night FaceTiming all my friends who are available, tending to my family and attending a section that’s supposed to be in the Kline Biology Tower from within the walls of my New York City bedroom. I haven’t seen anyone besides my immediate family in 14 days and I don’t know the next time I will. New York makes up a monumental number of the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, and a number of those around me have tested positive for the virus.
Despite the glaring bleakness of this difficult time, I’ve never seen more solidarity and support within the Yale community. A number of students have offered their homes to some who have nowhere to stay and immense emotional support to others. Most importantly, the advocacy that has taken place in support of implementing a Universal Pass system has been remarkable. This movement has not only shown how fervent student support can be, but also how urgent the needs of our classmates are right now.
It goes without saying that I support the Universal Pass system. Campus, in theory, serves as a space for equal opportunity. The difficulties faced by certain groups of students on campus are only amplified when home. Stripping students of their safe haven — secured housing, meals, access to internet, mental health services, health insurance etc. — and expecting them to perform as if nothing has happened is immoral. The rug has been pulled out from under students suddenly and without warning. This, accompanied by a global health crisis, should be enough to suggest that many students will not or are simply unable to perform at their peak performance. This is an inherent fact of our current condition.
While many students and faculty have acknowledged this, there is a smaller, less practical group that has ignored these facts. Or worse, simply decided they don’t outweigh their personal interests. In an email to students, Dean Marvin Chun stated he had been presented with an “equal passion” from both sides. Being opposed to the Universal Pass system due to the potential loss of a slight GPA boost versus supporting the Universal Pass system because you don’t have secure access to the internet, are sick yourself, living in an unwelcoming or unsafe environment, or a number of other reasons is not indicative of an “equal passion.”
Rather, it shows that some find their own desires greater than the collective good. If institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Wellesley College, Columbia University and Dartmouth College have put alternative grading systems into place, why can’t Yale? If the concern is grade point averages and graduate school admissions, a number of institutions have stated they would be entirely accepting of a pass/fail grade if the policy was universal. Placing an optional Credit/D/Fail as the alternative only widens the divide between those with the resources to do well and those who simply don’t have access to them right now.
This fight has shown me that, beyond anything else, a majority of my classmates and instructors care for those around them more than merely themselves. I’ve found that many agree benefiting at the expense of your suitemates, classmates or teammates is not a worthwhile gain. I’ve seen a number of students grapple with how much time they should be spending tending to the relationships they had on campus. However, no amount of performative compassion and empathy can outweigh actual solidarity. Even if you may not necessarily need a Universal Pass system, there are those who do. It is not only unethical but also selfish and undeniably cruel to prioritize your individual desires over another person’s needs. So much has already been lost this semester. Taking away more from students, and putting them through more physical, emotional and mental distress, is an unnecessary decision.
LEILA JACKSON is a sophomore in Saybrook College. Her column runs on alternate Thursdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .