Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students may not have to worry about this semester’s grades counting toward their cumulative GPAs.
On Monday, university students are set to begin the remainder of the spring semester in online courses. However, on Saturday afternoon, the Council of Academic Administrators will hold an emergency meeting to consider changes to the way classes are administered, namely considering a set of pass/fail, z-grade options for courses.
In an email obtained by The Daily Mississippian, Provost Noel Wilkin wrote that the Council of Academic Administrators – a large group of professors and administrators which “has broad responsibility for all academic activities of the university on all its campuses” – will meet via videoconference to consider emergency academic proposals.
Wilkin wrote that “Faculty and staff in our Keep Teaching group developed a set of Pass/Fail/Z-grade options for emergency consideration by the Undergraduate and Graduate Councils.” Wilkin also wrote that the council will also consider “course withdrawal deadlines, and possible modifications to grade forgiveness and exclusion rules.”
Specifically, the authors of the proposed policies advocate for two changes to how courses are graded. The first proposal would allow “students who earn an A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+ or C- to choose to change their letter grade to a Z during the week after regular grades are submitted” at the end of the semester. A “Z grade” does not count towards a students GPA, but would satisfy “C or better” prerequisite requirements.
Currently, only juniors or seniors can utilize the “Z grade” option, and they can only use it once. The proposed policy would allow all students to use this option and for all courses this semester.
The second policy proposal concerns the “P grade” or passing grade. Pass/Fail grades are only given in exercise and leisure courses, but the proposed policy recommends that the university allow all students to opt for a passing grade. “Students who earn a C- or D may choose to change their letter grade to a P during the week after regular grades are submitted,” the proposed policy reads.
Both proposed policies would only apply to courses with course numbers ranging from 100-499 and only amid the COVID-19 emergency.
The email was sent to a collection of Associated Student Body executive officers and senior administrators, and was in response to a letter sent on Thursday from ASB President Mayfield in which Mayfield highlighted a litany of student concerns amid the ongoing national pandemic.
The authors argue that unknown territory induced by COVID-19, namely the unknown duration of the virus and how faculty and students will react to the abrupt, sweeping shift in how courses are to be delivered, necessitate these policy changes.
“Grade appeals are often very unique to a situation; to the extent that we can work to create an environment of academic rigor and fairness given the national emergency, which all universities, their students, and their faculty are currently facing, we may find we have an adequate grade appeal process,” Wilkin said.