Dear Brian,

How do I know whether I should pass/fail a class?

                                   -Margery Kempe

Hello reader, and welcome to the inaugural edition of Bad Advice from Brian. Here, I’ll be taking reader-submitted questions and trying to respond to them as best as I know how. Let’s start with the question at hand: when should I use the pass/fail option on a class? Well, in order to understand the complexities of this issue, we need to delve a bit into the history of the pass/fail system.

        It was early in 1979, I believe, when former University President Dax Ratfarmer was taking his ceremonial morning butterbath and reading National Review.” Now, there’s no concrete evidence of this, but legend has it that Ratfarmer’s wife, Belize, came into their bathroom that morning and asked Dax if he was interested in having a Greek yogurt for breakfast, to which he quickly replied “pass!” and indicated that, once again, he’d be going with Go-Gurt instead. I know it’s hard to believe so many things could go right at once, but according to the legend, after this, Belize turned to leave the bathroom and slipped on Dax’s splashy-water, falling on her rumpus plumpus. If we take the scribes at their word, it is at this moment that the president cries out “fail!” at his wife’s misfortune. Here, Dax has his “eureka!” moment—there should be a pass/fail option for our classes!

        Wow, what a great history lesson. It’s stuff like this that gets me incredibly engorged.

Let’s move on, though, to how the pass/fail system actually works, huh? Well, it’s pretty simple. Let’s say you’re in the second month of your first semester of organic chemistry. Things are going well; you’re keeping up with the labs, and you did well on the first test. By all rights, you should be a shoo-in for a B+, come grading time. That is, until you are visited by Grumbo the Coupons Elf, who endows you suddenly with the ability to produce stupendous deals out of your fingertips. Quite the change of circumstances!

All of a sudden, you’re quite the hot item on campus. Everyone wants to take you on their Wegman’s runs, hoping to benefit from your poppin’ finger-bargains. This helps you climb the social ladder, but it eats into all of your orgo study time! Pretty soon, you’re failing badly. So I guess my advice is, drop out!



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