New Pass/Fail policy to assuage student concerns

By John Rogan

In another unforeseen alteration to classes this semester, Saint Vincent is now offering students the option to adjust course grading to a Pass/Fail format.

The college provided the following statement on the change:

“This semester, faculty will grade their courses assigning the appropriate letter grade. Upon submission of final Spring 2020 grades by the faculty, students may opt to have any of their letter grades changed to a P/F grade from May 13 - June 3. P/F grades will count for credit in all programs (core, major, minor, and certificate). The student who elects this option will need to verify that they have met with his or her faculty advisor to discuss this decision because there are potential implications for graduate and professional program admission and education certification among other things.”

“The rationale for this policy is that the global, national, and local circumstances in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a significant, unexpected alteration in the conditions in which students are learning this semester.” - John Smetanka

Vice President of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean Dr. John Smetanka clarified the effects of this new allowance.

“The rationale for this policy is that the global, national, and local circumstances in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a significant, unexpected alteration in the conditions in which students are learning this semester,” Smetanka said. “In recognition of these facts, the College is offering students this change in policy to afford them some additional control over how grades are recorded on their transcripts this semester.”

In order for students to make a fully informed decision, Smetanka said, any student that wishes to change their course to Pass/Fail must set up a meeting with Academic Affairs and their faculty advisors.

“For instance,” he said, “some certification, graduate, and professional programs require a letter grade in certain courses for admission. These are best discussed with the faculty advisor.”

According to Inside Higher Ed, More than a dozen four-year universities have decided to expand pass/fail options for students" due to the Coronavirus crisis. (Source: Pixabay)

In regards to what effects the change would have on a student’s grade, Smetanka explained that as long as a student earns a C- or better in a course, they may elect to change that grade to a P. The credits would still fulfill any requirement at the College, that is, major, minor, certificate, or core. A course with a grade of P does not factor into the calculation of the semester or cumulative GPA.

“Note that all F grades do factor into the GPA calculation, even an F earned in a P/F course,” Smetanka said.

“Obviously, no student with an A, a D, or an F would elect this option,” he added. “No one would want to remove an A from the transcript. In a Pass/Fail course, any grade below a C- is recorded as an F.”

Therefore, Smetanka recommended that students who earn a D in a course should keep the D, rather than take the P/F option, which would result in an F that would both factor into GPA calculation and preclude the student’s earning credit for the course

As to which classes would accept Pass/Fail credits, and if they would go towards graduation, Smetanka stated that “Spring 2020 P/F credits will count for any program, and P/F credits always apply to the 124 credits needed for graduation.”

Smetanka explained that every class this semester is eligible; however, it is critical that students speak with their faculty advisors.

“In recognition of these facts, the College is offering students this change in policy to afford them some additional control over how grades are recorded on their transcripts this semester.” - John Smetanka

“This consultation is required to ensure that students are made aware of any issues with external agencies, such as education certification through the Pennsylvania Department of Education, or graduate or professional school admissions,” he stated.

This new policy does not impact audited classes, since those do not result in a letter grade in the first place.

As to other academic adjustments, Smetanka stated that the college has modified internship requirements and delayed registration for Fall 2020 by a week, and that alternatives are being explored for the Academic Conference.

“We are following the published Academic Calendar for Spring 2020,” Smetanka explained. “Students can count on Easter Break as scheduled; the last day of classes will be May 1; and finals will begin May 4, following the regular schedule.”

#JohnRogan #Coronavirus #PassFail #Classes

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