The faculty senate is considering a pass/fail option for undergraduates this semester, due to the upheaval caused by COVID-19 and the switch to online learning.
Under the proposal, which will be voted on at the faculty senate meeting Wednesday, students could request a pass/fail grade on a “course-by-course basis” after final grades have been submitted.
The proposal outlines an SC/S/U grading system that students could request for their courses. If students earn an A, B+, B, C+, or C in the course, their grade would be converted to an SC. A grade of D+ or D would be converted to an S, and an earned grade of F would transfer to a U.
If a student chooses to use the SC/S/U grading system for a course, that course would not calculate into their GPA.
Mark Cooper, the faculty senate chair, said in an email interview students could apply the proposed system to “any spring 2020 undergraduate course.” He also said there would be no limit to the number of courses students could do this for.
Courses graded with the SC/S/U system could still count towards a student’s major requirements, as long as grade requirements are met. For example, if a grade of C or higher is required in a course, a student must get an SC for the class to count.
“Faculty, students, and administrators are all concerned about how the decision to go online for spring 2020 will affect students’ academic progress. We wanted to give students more flexibility as they seek to complete this extraordinary semester,” Cooper said.
A student petition calling for a pass/fail option on Change.org has received 5,329 signatures as of March 30.
“I have yet to hear strong opposition [to the proposal], but I anticipate that there will be some concerns,” Cooper said, concerning the vote Wednesday.
As far as how this proposal might affect financial aid, Cooper said this is an area that “depends on the details of each student's situation.”
“This is one area students really need to learn and get advice about when considering pass/fail,” Cooper said.
If the faculty senate proposal is approved, students could make requests through the USC Registrar’s office. Requests would have to be made before July 1, 2020.
“If it passes, students should plan to use that time to educate themselves about the pros and cons of choosing pass/fail,” Cooper said.
The exception to this proposal is graduate and professional school courses, which can only be granted a pass/fail option by the corresponding school’s dean.
The proposal would also allow students who are currently retaking a course for grade forgiveness, to take that course again later on without a penalty.
If approved, the proposal would also add a note to all academic records noting “the extraordinary circumstances of the global public health emergency during Spring 2020,” according to a copy of the proposal.
Update on March 30 at 6:25 p.m.: This article has been updated to include the comments of Mark Cooper, the faculty senate chair.