University announces limited pass/fail option for undergraduate and graduate students

Undergraduate students can elect to take two courses pass/fail after final grades are submitted

University announces limited pass/fail option for undergraduate and graduate students
Cherry blossoms in bloom on an empty campus.

Update: This story has been updated with information from an email from Acting Provost Peter Starr.

Acting Provost Peter Starr announced in an email Monday that AU undergraduate students will have the option to change two courses to a pass/fail grade after the fall semester grades are posted. 

Starr said that most undergraduates can convert grades in an elective course, in addition to a major, minor, core or Gen Ed course. Most graduate students can convert grades in one course to pass/fail after the semester has ended. This also applies to the spring 2021 semester.

This option also allows students to make a decision within five days after their final grades are posted, unlike last semester when students were unable to see their final grades before they changed the grade type. Starr said this period will occur in early January.

“We know that you are grappling with the many impacts of COVID-19—in your personal lives, in your communities, and in your academic work,” said Starr on the decision to enact pass/fail in his email. “You have told us that navigating these challenges has become increasingly taxing, that ‘Zoom fatigue’ is real, and that you are feeling increased anxiety about your academic success.”

For graduate students, only one course can be elected as pass/fail, but the option has not been extended to the Washington College of Law or the Master’s Accelerator Program.

Before Starr’s announcement, School of Communication professor Randall Blair wrote in an email to the Faculty Senate on Friday that the decision to take a course pass/fail would be made after final grades are submitted, and the exact dates were still being worked out. Blair said in the email that in the Senate meeting, Dean of Undergraduate Education Jessica Waters said that pass/fail “was just one of many things that the undergraduate students are asking for.”

“She reported that in the spring semester 2019 there were 200 pass/fail grades issued for undergraduate students,” Blair said. “In the spring 2020 semester, there were 3,500.”

Since the start of the fall semester, students have been pushing for the University to extend the option of pass/fail to ease the stress of the pandemic, like they did this past spring, The Eagle previously reported. AU chapters of the NAACP, Black Student Union and Black Girls Vote started a petition that received over 1,100 signatures as of Friday.

In addition, the undergraduate and graduate associate deans for the Faculty Senate prepared a document detailing reasons for extending the pass/fail option for one course for the fall semester, and why the decision should be made after final grades are submitted. 

The document cited the decision to elect one course pass/fail as a compromise for graduate students. It stated that extending the deadline to the end of the semester will ease pressure for both faculty and students.

“After going through the experience in Spring 2020, it will help to manage their stress, and I even think that it can be a good incentive for them to try to get a good grade and thus keep their work up and their engagement,” the document said.

Further information on the pass/fail decision is forthcoming.

asheffey@theeagleonline.com

jyoung@theeagleonline.com

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