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Pass/No Credit Option Revoked, What Now for Students?

By: Maria Giovanna Jumper

On April 2, 2021 the student body received an email from the Adelphi University Provost that explained the change in grading policy for the spring semester and updated the class withdrawal date, with the reminder that it has been a year of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the spring 2020 semester, there were concerns about how dealing with the sudden myriad physical, emotional and logistical complications would impact student grades and their ability to produce their best work. As a result, on March 27, 2020 the administration sent out an email explaining the decision to adopt a pass/no credit (P/NC) grading system.

On April 2nd, the decision to end the pass/no credit policy was made clear in an email from the Adelphi Provost. Photo from Wikimedia commons

The new email this month changed what was explained in 2020. Last year, Steve Everett, the Provost and Executive Vice President, had written, “This approach supports you in working to your highest potential, but does not penalize you with an ‘F’ if the sudden conversion to remote learning results in unexpected challenges and a lower-than-expected grade in any courses.”

The original email did describe some exceptions depending on major and specific classes, but the decision ultimately came as a result of the “extremely unusual circumstances surrounding this [spring 2020] semester due to the Covid-19 public health crisis, and the stress and anxiety this has caused for many of you.”

Flash forward to the spring 2021 semester and this option is no longer seen as necessary. The first main change in the email was the change of the withdrawal date. The new deadline to withdraw from a class is now April 26 rather than March 30. This change will only apply to this semester.

In an interview with The Delphian, Provost Everett stated, “The Faculty Senate recommended extending the period during which students may withdraw from a course to give both faculty and students more time to assess student progress and to determine whether it is in the students’ best interests to stay in a course which they might fail, or to withdraw.”

Gabriella Cisneros, a senior, said, “This change is very harmful to students. Adelphi made the decision to take away spring break as precaution. I understand and agree with this decision, but the impact has been difficult to handle. Many students are struggling with mental health and motivation as a result, and the university is taking away the little support we had.”

For Cisneros the change in withdrawal date is not helpful. “As a second semester senior, the extension of the withdrawal period does nothing to help me. My options are to destroy my GPA or to push back my graduation date in order to retake classes and to spend more money in the process.”

The second bullet point states, “the Faculty Senate has made the decision not to extend the Pass/No Credit (P/NC) grading option into the current (spring 2021) semester. Traditional grading policies will remain in effect.”

The rationale following this decision was that “For spring 2021… the Senate Executive Committee, its committees and its senators believed that the hard work of faculty to improve their online instruction… together with students’ increased familiarity with the new modalities, have mitigated the need for such an extreme accommodation.”

Professor Sarah Eltabib, chair of the Faculty Senate, stated, “The faculty at Adelphi value the integrity of an Adelphi degree, which is why required general education classes and major classes have traditionally disallowed the Pass/Fail option. To continue the Pass/No Credit option indefinitely would devalue an Adelphi degree when compared with those of other schools that ended their P/NC options this term.”

However some students still feel the struggles of this transition. Cisneros stated, “The reality is that many professors have not perfected online instruction. The university has essentially placed responsibility on the students to perform at pre-pandemic capacity without pre-pandemic resources available.”

This is particularly concerning since, as reported in the last issues of this newspaper, “Student Mental Health Issues on the Rise Due to the Ongoing Impact of the Pandemic,” not all students have had the ability to adjust to online learning modalities. Many students have been facing mental health issues, with college campuses, including Adelphi, having higher instances of depression and other mental illnesses.

Another student from the class of 2023, who asked not to be named, agreed. “Mental health is declining from Zoom/computer fatigue. I personally am on my computer working from morning till night. I feel like I haven’t seen the light of day in months other than on the weekends.”

The student continued, “I was outraged that Adelphi alerted us of this change a little over a month before the semester ends, and on a holiday weekend. Students should have had the policy change disclosed to them earlier so that if they had an issue there would be enough time to refute the decision.”

Provost Everett explained the reasoning behind the grade change. “The use of the Pass grade in lieu of a traditional letter grade has the potential to impact certification requirements, NCAA eligibility, graduate school applications, joint program articulation agreements, Latin Honors eligibility, Dean’s List eligibility, and other GPA dependent matters.”

As to the extension of the withdrawal date, the Provost’s office explained in the same email from April 2 that they understand the ongoing pandemic has been affecting students. They wrote, “To allow students to avoid unnecessary failing grades, the Faculty Senate recommended to the Provost’s office extending the withdrawal deadline to give both faculty and students more time to assess student progress and to determine whether it is in the students’ best interests to stay in a course which they might fail, or to withdraw.”

While the later withdrawal date might allow some students to remove a possible failing grade from their record, others may fall behind in credits because they need to withdraw from a class.

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