Colleges turn to Pass/No Pass grading as pandemic reshapes education

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With all schools closed for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester and instruction moved online, students are finding themselves in the situation of taking courses they didn’t exactly sign up for.

“It sucks honestly because I didn’t pay for online classes, and it’s just stressful,” said student Jaedan Alfiche.

As a result of the pandemic affecting classes, some colleges and universities are allowing the issuing of Pass/No Pass grades.

University of California, Berkeley, was the first to announce a shift in this direction on March 20. It was followed by Duke University in North Carolina and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In addition San Joaquin Delta College has also discussed if they should consider Pass/No Pass grades for the semester.

The grade option, as well as an option for late withdrawals that don’t impact future student aid or academic placement, were discussed in a town hall meeting hosted on a video based platform by the Associated Students of Delta College (ASDC) on April 1.

The first question posed was regarding if Delta College would consider switching over to Pass/No Pass grading.

Assistant Superintendent/Vice-President of Student Services Dr. Lisa Cooper Wilkins said “instructions will be sent out to students who may need to withdraw for COVID-19 related reasons,” this week.

For everyone that has withdrawn from his or her current Spring 2020 classes the “grading notation will be EW…excused withdrawal,” she added.

In order for the school to switch to a Pass/No Pass grading system, Cooper Wilkins said it is going to “require to work with the enrollment services team and instruction to see how it will work out, because we have specific district policies.”

“Our chancellor is working with the chancellors of CSUs and UCs to ensure that there is going to be consistency around the acceptance of this suspension and grading policies,” said Cooper Wilkins regarding concerns of students transferring to University of California or California State University campuses. 

In an email interview, Dr. Omid Pourzanjani, Delta’s superintendent/president, said the college is “certainly investigating” options, particularly about emergency withdrawal.

 “Once we have the implementation details considered and a path forward, we’ll communicate the details with our students,” he said.

He said the Pass/No Pass option is more complicated.

“Since many of our students transfer to universities is generally a competitive process, we are currently unclear as to how pass/fail grades and the resulting GPAs would impact our students’ chances of acceptance. We are still evaluating the options on this one carefully and awaiting more specific guidance from our Chancellor’s office,” he said.