University considers pass/no pass options for remainder of the semester, but decision has not yet been made

The Hawks’ Herald learned today that there is a draft circulating to faculty members from the administration detailing potential options for pass/no pass grading systems for spring 2020 courses. 

Two courses of action are being looked at by the university: an optional policy or an across-the-board policy. 

An optional policy would mean that undergraduate students can convert any of their spring 2020 courses to pass/no pass if they submit a Course Status Form to the Registrar’s Office. Students would be able to convert a grade to pass/no pass up to one week after the submission of spring 2020 grades. 

The other option is an across-the-board policy, which according to the draft is the recommended option for the university. This approach would mean that all spring 2020 undergraduate courses would transition to a default pass/no pass system. With this option, all course instructors would still record letter grades, and students can request these for any course by submitting the same Course Status Form that was previously mentioned.

In both cases, courses recorded as pass/no pass would not count toward a student’s GPA and any course in which a student receives a No Pass or F will not be recorded on their final transcripts. Restrictions on this option for classes counting toward major(s), minor(s) and the Core Curriculum would be waived with both approaches and there would be no limit in regards to how many classes can be recorded this way.

Sources in the RWU community confirmed there are arguments from both sides among the faculty. One group believes the pass/no pass option isn’t a good move, while others argue students are now facing issues that might prevent them from doing the work they are normally able to do.

Rationale for both of these choices is based on emergency grading decisions being made by universities across the country, in response to the spread of COVID-19. Syracuse University, which moved to all online classes on March 10, is allowing students to opt for a pass/fail grading option for most courses this semester, reflecting the optional approach. On the other hand, schools like Columbia University and Duke University have decided that all courses for the remainder of the semester will be graded pass/fail or with the latter, satisfactory/unsatisfactory.

An online petition titled “Allow Roger Williams students to choose Pass/Fail” has gained over 1,050 signatures since it was created yesterday by junior Austin Kuter. In the post, Kuter said students are thankful that the university prioritizes students’ safety and well-being, but he believes students should have the option to take their courses as pass/fail.

“Given the abrupt timing of COVID-19 and its exponentially growing impact on not only the Roger Williams community but the world at large, all we ask is for the university to consider this proposal to allow students to take courses on pass/fail credit without penalty,” Kuter said. 

Many students in the response section seem to agree with this approach.

“It has been almost impossible to concentrate the way I would in college at home due to both my parents working and distracting me (through no fault of their own)…” junior Jillian Fluette said in the comments. “I should be able to concentrate on myself and my family right now rather than having the weight of the world on my shoulders to achieve A’s.”

Sources say the Faculty Senate is taking the issue under advisement and that a decision should be expected in the next few days.