After deliberation from faculty and outcry from students, Binghamton University announced on Monday that it will make changes to its grading policy in the wake of the coronavirus.
In a B-Line statement, Donald Nieman, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, announced that students now have the option to grade up to 12 credits pass-fail during the spring 2020 semester. The credits will count toward major, minor or general education requirements. Typically, students cannot take a class pass-fail and have it count toward a major, minor or general education credit required for graduation. Nieman cited the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent transition to online classes as reasons for the change.
“This semester’s academic disruption and the current public health crisis have had a significant impact on our courses and on students’ ability to do their best in coursework this semester,” Nieman wrote in the announcement. “We know this is a very difficult time for students and we want to support their efforts to continue making progress toward their [BU] degrees, so we have implemented the following policies for the spring 2020 semester.”
The new policy applies to all undergraduate classes except licensure-qualifying or accreditation-limited programs, such as nursing and social work. All students will still have the option to receive a letter grade for all of their courses.
The decision also expands upon a previous amendment to the University’s grade change policy. In a March 15 B-Line announcement, Nieman wrote that the deadline to withdraw from a class or change the grading option would be April 29. Per the March 30 policy update, students will now be able to switch to the pass-fail option after receiving their final grades in May.
Students who are struggling with academically may also choose to withdraw from their courses until June 5. Additionally, University enforcement of GPA-based probation, suspension and dismissal will be suspended for the semester.
Payton Watson, a junior majoring in English, said he will make his grade change decisions on a class-by-class basis.
“It would depend on the classes that I am taking,” Watson said. “If I like the professor I’d continue with it, but if it were difficult and the professor wasn’t making it worthwhile, I’d do the pass or fail if I didn’t like it — and if I would pass.”
Abigail Cornelia, a sophomore double-majoring in English and philosophy, politics and law, said she will stick with the letter grade system, but thinks the University is making the right decision by giving students options.
“I am fortunate enough where COVID-19 has not drastically impacted my living situation so I won’t be taking advantage of this rule change,” Cornelia said. “However, I may be in the minority with this so it is nice to see that the University is willing to be accommodating with academic requirements for students who have been severely impacted by the virus.”