WMSC News Update: President Cole Calls Student’s Letter Concerning Pass/Fail ‘Extraordinarily Rude’

Written by on December 21, 2020

WMSC News Update



The emails sent from junior Shelby O’Boyle and President Susan Cole about the university’s pass/fail policy. | Photos courtesy of Shelby O’Boyle

By Ryan Breyta
On Friday, Nov. 30, Shelby O’Boyle, a junior at Montclair State University studying film, sent an email to President Susan Cole and her professors to voice her concerns over the university’s pass/fail policy for the fall 2020 semester, to only receive an email from the president calling her letter ‘extraordinarily rude’.

Unlike the 2020 spring semester, this year’s pass/fail policy only applies to undergraduate students who are taking free elective classes, which means that the option is not available for classes that are required for students to graduate. When O’Boyle first received the email from the university on Nov. 20 announcing the policy, she let out a sigh of relief, until she read the full email.

“I actually had friends text me and they said, oh, Montclair just announced pass-fail, and I said to myself Thank God, I have been waiting for this,” said O’Boyle. She added, “Once I read further into the email though, I just felt like it was not as advertised that you could not really use it for any major classes, which was incredibly frustrating.”

Shelby O’Boyle in a Zoom interview with Ryan Breyta discussing the university’s pass/fail policy. | Photo by Ryan Breyta


O’Boyle’s frustrations with the policy led her to send an email to President Cole and her professors addressing her concerns. In her email, O’Boyle implied that the university does not care about the wellbeing of their students because of this semester’s pass/fail policy.

“To even imply that you care about our grade performance would seem unbelievable to me, considering I cannot fathom how you think students’ GPAs won’t plummet after this incredibly trying semester,” O’Boyle said in the email.

Her response did not sit well with President Cole, as the president called O’Boyle’s concerns written in the letter “extraordinarily rude”. When asked what she thought when the president responded, O’Boyle was appalled.

“That was extremely appalling to me. It took a lot in me to write that email and I really was not trying to be rude at all,” she said. “I was trying to be firm enough to get my point across and to tell her that I’m not going to let it slide that you are just giving us [Montclair State students] an empty gesture with this policy.”



The email sent from the university administration announcing the fall semester’s pass/fail policy on Nov. 20. | Photo courtesy of Montclair State University

After President Cole’s response, O’Boyle wrote another email thanking her for her response and elaborated more about the struggles she has been facing with some professors this semester. When asked if she regrets what she said in her original email to President Cole, O’Boyle believes she handled it perfectly.

“I do not regret anything that was said in the email,” said O’Boyle. She continued, “I think what was said needed to be said, and I felt that my email was firm but professional.”

After her latest email, O’Boyle has not received a response from President Cole, but she was able to talk to Dr. Keith Strudler, the Director of the School of Communication and Media. O’Boyle says that Dr. Strudler was extremely helpful with questions she had regarding the

pass/fail policy as he was able to give her a clearer understanding of what the policy means for undergraduate students.

When asked to comment on the matter between O’Boyle and President Cole, the university was not available. However, in the email they sent out about the pass/fail policy back in November, they reminded students that they are hoping for the success of all students saying quote: “​We want every student at Montclair State to be successful, and we encourage you to continue to work hard and to take advantage of all the resources the University offers to support you.”