CPP approves letter grade/no credit under timing pressure

Cal Poly Pomona officially approved a letter grade/no credit grading option for the 2020-2021 academic year last week, just two weeks before looming final exams.

The timing of the California State University Chancellor’s Office Nov. 2 memorandum, which clarified campuses were allowed to offer students alternative grading options, did not allow sufficient time for an Academic Senate resolution to be moved through during its Dec. 2 meeting, according to Academic Senate Chair Phyllis Nelson.

“There was time pressure to come to a decision so the campus could be notified in time to provide all the pieces that need to happen: the advising, the website and the open information sessions,” said Nelson. “The attempt here is to offer some flexibility to help students protect their GPA.”

Nelson added, this decision also gives time to program the computer systems to allow students to input their decision into BroncoDirect.

This includes two Zoom forums planned for Dec. 3 and Dec. 4 for students to learn more about the letter grade/no credit option and what to consider before opting in. “No credit” grades are not calculated into student’s GPA but would require a student to retake the course or make up the units in the future if the course is required for their degree.

Students have until Dec. 6 to change their grading option in BroncoDirect.

The option has been received positively by students like Elizabeth Carlos, a fourth year biology student, who believes the assigned work for her six courses seem to have doubled in the virtual environment, resulting in lower grades. As someone interested in graduate school, Carlos recognizes no credit is not necessarily the best look on her transcripts, but that a D or F isn’t either.

“I definitely struggled with some aspects in my outside life that negatively impacted my education,” said Carlos. “So, having the grade letter/no credit option is good because it gives you an opportunity to have a letter grade, but if failing choose no credit as a safety net.”

Despite a widely circulated student petition and calls from ASI Vice President Manshaan Singh, the campus is not re-adopting a credit/no credit option as it did last semester. This is due to
accessibility complications with international students unable to receive financial aid, veteran
students unable to collect benefits, difficulties with students applying to graduate school and
CSU regulations of credit/no credit, according to Nelson.

The letter grade/no credit option will allow students to consider their personal situations,
according to Jonathan Puthoff, executive Academic Senate committee member.

“The faculty are going to enter their grades like they normally do, with the full range of options,
but how it is recorded in your transcript is going to be governed by the ABC/no credit rule,” said
Puthoff.

The grade letter/no credit designation will allow students to “fine tune” transcripts, added
Puthoff; however, he suggested students consult with their advisers to ensure they “minimize
any negative impacts.”

Academic Senator Alvaro Huerta, an associate professor in the Urban & Region Planning and
Ethnic & Women’s Studies departments, is in support of the grade letter/no credit because his
students are finding it difficult to maintain their grades amid personal struggles.

“Students shared they were impacted emotionally, financially and health wise,” said Huerta.
“Even if it wasn’t directly them, many of them said to have a relative who had COVID or a family
member who lost their job or received cut hours.”

Sharing her struggles, Kaylon Mitchell, a third-year kinesiology student, is in support of the
grading option and believes the lack of social interaction within her classes is causing her to fall
behind.

“I feel like some professors are not as helpful online, and it only discourages me to speak out
when I have some concerns on the material,” said Mitchell. “I would feel like this wouldn’t be
happening if we were in person.”

(Feature image courtesy of Bandersnaps) 

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