Uncertainty, and for some, panic arose with an obligatory disposition to online learning that awaited students and faculty returning from a longer than anticipated spring break. Revised syllabi, shifted quarantine work environments, and on top of it all, coping with a global crisis has shaken our community.
In light of the hardships each of us face with online education as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bridgewater State University is considering a Pass/No Pass (P/N) grading option for the Spring 2020 semester. The concept began when a group of students drafted a petition that over one-third of B.S.U.’s undergraduate students signed to adopt an opt-in grading policy.
The All University Committee (A.U.C.) is structured to ensure that major decisions be made fairly by going through the body of administrators and faculty as well as up to three student representatives whom may be appointed by the Student Government Association (S.G.A) senate president. Our fellow peers acting for the student body are Maxwell Morrongiello, Jack Letsche and Anna Rice.
At first, President Frederick Clark, considering the urgency of the situation and best interest for his students, submitted the proposal directly to the top committee to make a decision right away. Faculty members, feeling rushed and overlooked, expressed the importance of following usual process for a policy of such precedence and felt we should proceed the way other state universities have, not cutting any corners.
The way the meetings were set up would prolong the process until April 22nd, two weeks after the course withdrawal deadline. However, concerns arose with putting students in a position of deciding whether to wait out the process and hope for approval or play it safe by dropping a class to avoid a possible detrimental deduction to their GPA. The decision to extend the course withdraw deadline was announced to students via email on Wednesday, April 8th, the day before the original withdrawal deadline. The meeting to make a final decision on this issue has been moved up to April 15th.
The current proposal is subject to change and it is extremely important that all students understand the pros and cons and discuss options with their advisor. Maxwell Morrongiello explained that some graduate programs may not accept a P/N and while they are working on an option that would allow students to get a letter from the registrar, he urges students who are taking a course needed for graduate school, to consult their advisor first. Additionally, students who are on academic warning should contact financial aid to see how it might impact their award/package.
This proposal may be a particularly good deal for students in how it differs from a typical “pass/fail” scenario. Where failing would count as a zero towards a GPA, a “no pass” ensures their GPA remains neutral even when credits are not earned. Typically, one would opt out of receiving a letter grade prior to taking the course, but in recognition of continuing uncertainties, students will be able to select the classes they wish to appear as “pass” or “no pass” after receiving final grades. Students will have one week to make their decision. Students will need to request the registrar’s office to opt in for the class to be pass/ no pass.
The policy allows for each department to appeal to the provost if they feel it is not in the best interest of the program or it might influence their accreditation. The most significant factor discussed in opposition to the proposal was with regard to prerequisites. Under the original written policy, a student could receive a D- and still pass the class which some faculty argued was not setting students up for success. A.P.C revised the proposal so that prerequisites will be met based on the original underlying grade.
Anna Rice explained her understanding of the possibility of a department appeal. “From my understanding of this line, departments as a whole can request that specific courses may not be eligible for P/N grading, but that determination is not made by individual professors. This exemption also must be due to accreditation/licensure requirements, and not whether or not the department doesn’t want to participate in this grading. There were concerns from Dr. Oravecz’s Student Advisory Board about what the rubric for these decisions would be, but it seems as though exemptions will only be allowed for very specific circumstances in order to ensure fairness and accessibility for all students affected.”
The Academic Policies Committee (A.P.C.) has recommended passage of the proposal that will be voted on by the All University Committee, including our three student representatives, on Wednesday, April 15. For more details, visit bridgew.edu/covid-19.