Officials to permit undergraduates up to one pass/fail class per semester for academic year

Media Credit: File Photo by Gabrielle Rhoads | Staff Photographer

Officials said in the email they reviewed the pass/fail policies at GW’s market basket schools and found that students used the option for an average of one class during the spring semester.

Undergraduates will be allowed to take one class on a Pass/No Pass basis per semester this academic year, officials announced Friday.

Students have until Nov. 6 to declare if they’d like to take a class on a pass/fail basis this semester, and no requests will be accepted after the deadline, according to an email officials sent to students Friday. Leaders of the University’s graduate and professional schools will determine whether their school will offer a Credit/No Credit option on a school-by-school basis, the email states.

Officials said in the email they reviewed the pass/fail policies at GW’s market basket schools and found that students used the option for an average of one class during the spring semester.

“As is the case with many issues facing higher education, there is considerable variance across colleges in their policies on grading,” the email states. “The registrar reviewed the spring 2020 pass/no pass trends and found that, on average, students used the option for one course.”

The Student Association pushed officials in June to extend a pass/fail option for all undergraduate classes for the fall semester and administered a survey to gauge interest, which revealed that 93 percent of respondents favored the option being extended.

The majority of students indicated support for implementing a pass/fail option, according to a survey officials administered earlier this month. Students launched a petition urging officials to adopt a pass/fail option for the fall semester earlier this month.

Officials said in the email that they don’t want students to be unfairly penalized for grades when they’re experiencing circumstances beyond their control, but offering a pass/fail option for all classes could reduce students’ employment and educational opportunities.

“Still, offering unlimited Pass/No Pass or Credit/No Credit flexibility in grading might cause risks to students’ future educational and employment opportunities, such as in specially accredited programs in health sciences,” the email states. “An academic record showing several semesters of binary grades might convey a misleading signal of students’ performance and potential.”

Officials said students who wish to take more than one class on a pass/fail basis will require official approval from their academic adviser or the dean of their school or both after reviewing the student’s “relevant and extenuating circumstances.” The email states that students can request a review process, created by the provost’s office, outside their individual school or college in “rare cases.”

“The provost will partner with Student Association leadership and the Faculty Senate to charge a student and faculty group to develop a list of recommendations that would render as unnecessary the need to have the Pass/No Pass option,” the email states. “The provost plans to prioritize these recommendations to put in place for the 2021-22 academic year.”

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