The University’s faculty voted to extend the deadline for students to select their grading mode for courses with a ‘Student Option’ grading mode status on Monday, Aug. 31. Students now have until Nov. 24 — the last day to withdraw from classes — to decide whether they want to receive a Credit/Unsatisfactory (CR/U) grade or a letter grade for a course. There are currently 434 course offerings marked as Student Option, 186 courses that are CR/U grading only, and 215 courses that are A-F grading only, according to Senior Associate Register Karri Van Blarcom.
This decision to extend the deadline stems from larger conversations over the summer within the Educational Policy Committee (EPC).
“The Educational Policy Committee usually has no summer meetings, but we had two official meetings and also lots of back and forth correspondence, trying to anticipate issues that would really matter to faculty and students for working into these unusual circumstances,” EPC Chair and Philosophy Professor Elise Springer ’90 explained.
After these discussions, the EPC encouraged faculty to reflect on whether or not they could offer students the ability to choose the grading mode in their courses.
WSA Academic Affairs Committee Chair Ben Garfield ’22, an undergraduate representative on the EPC, also participated in these faculty conversations.
“We discussed this issue and in our first meeting, and really came to no conclusion on it other than to say to the faculty to tell them that if they changed their classes from A to F to student option that it would mean a lot to students who are in those classes,” Garfield said. “And so we asked them a couple of times to make that change.”
By extending the deadline, the EPC hopes to allow students more flexibility.
“Faculty have a lot of autonomy about how they run their courses,” Springer said. “And we respect that. However, we know students really may be in very difficult situations, they may face upheavals. They also might not be able to gauge very well at the beginning of the semester what’s sustainable.”
Garfield also pointed out the unpredictability of the semester and that the option to choose later on gives students more options, should the campus shut down and classes go fully online.
“There’s so much up in the air,” Garfield said. “Two weeks from now, we may not be on campus anymore. Everyone is adjusting to being able to take classes online and trying to figure out what that looks like. People are in quarantine. People are taking classes remotely. People’s families are going through all sorts of different situations…. There are so many possible different things that could happen for a student that we can’t predict them in any way.”
Springer recommends that those interested in taking a class CR/U should speak with their advisors, as well as professors in their major or intended major departments.
“Students should always talk with their major advisors if they have a major or multiple majors… they should be sure to check in with their majors to find out how graded/ungraded courses affect their progress,” Springer explained. “And if they don’t have a major yet, but really interested in a certain major, they should review the materials for that major to see if there’s something like a prerequisite for getting in the major that requires a grade.”
Professors are responsible for determining the threshold for an unsatisfactory grade, so students should also ask their instructors about the conditions for receiving course credit.
“The U in CR/U is unsatisfactory,” Springer said.“It can mean a threshold that’s not the same as F. So if you’re in a class, you should always, if CR/U is a possible enrollment mode, make sure you understand how the faculty is implementing conditions for the CR.”
Springer also noted that if a class is currently not offering a Student Option grading mode, students can still push to take the class CR/U.
“Students should always speak with their advisors and class deans, or any other resource staff available to them,” Springer said. “The staff and faculty are right now really poised to help people achieve their goals, knowing that this semester involves all kinds of stretches.”
Garfield echoed that students have the power to ask their professors about CR/U even if that option is not currently provided.
“If students see that their classes are not all in student option mode right now, they should write to their professors and tell them why they think that’s important and push their professors individually to do that,” Garfield said. “… There’s going to be instances when the chair of the department is going to block that move, but continue to keep that up because the only way that this actually gets resolved in a meaningful way, in my view, is by individual students working with individual professors to make it happen for them.”
Springer stressed that the EPC is available to provide support for students who need it.
“The EPC is rooting for everyone to have a successful semester and to stay in touch with all of us who are here to support you,” Springer said.
Hannah Docter-Loeb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.