In an email sent on March 23, East Carolina University Provost Grant Hayes and Vice-Provost Angela Anderson announced that students will now have the option to turn any of their Spring 2020 courses into pass/fail classes.
Hayes in the statement said that the decision was made after university officials began to hear from students who were having difficulty completing coursework due to issues related to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The shift to online learning has also led to some students having more difficulty completing assignments than others, and Hayes said he doesn’t want these unexpected difficulties to hinder any student from completing their degree.
“ECU wants to see our students be successful, and creating a special grading accommodation for the Spring 2020 semester is one way we can allow students to make progress towards their degree completion,” Hayes said in the statement.
The deadline to switch from a traditional letter grade for a course to pass/fail is May 13, which is after final grades have been posted.
Hayes hopes that the option to switch to pass/fail will help reduce anxiety among the student body regarding the unpredictable challenge that the university is currently facing.
“I hope by knowing the Pass/Fail option exists for this semester, students will persist and continue to put forth their best efforts for a successful semester,” Hayes said in the statement.
The main benefit of switching from the traditional letter grade to pass/fail, Hayes said, is that the student’s GPA will not be affected and any credits earned will still count towards graduation.
The decision by Hayes comes a week after a petition was posted on change.org which called for all students to pass their classes due to the move to distance education. Hayes, however, said that he was not aware of the petition when making the decision.
“It’s always good to know that we were working towards an outcome that our students were in favor of. It’s a win/win for our institution,” Hayes said.
Jennifer Cabacar, an academic advisor for the School of Communication, said that the university wanted to be fair to all students.
Cabacar recognizes that students are all facing their own stresses right now, and the university wanted to try and help ease any stressors that may be negatively impacting the student’s life right now.
“I think giving students that option, if you can stay in your classes, if you can stay with your professors, communicate your needs and I think at the end of the day, giving students a pass/fail option will give them options,” Cabacar said.
Cabacar urges students to consult with their academic advisor before making any decision regarding making a class into a pass/fail.
It is still important, Cabacar said, to take classes seriously and to still try to do well, because it will harm students in the long run if they begin to slack off simply due to the fact that they now have this new option.
“If you take that perspective, you can be hurt by that because there will be a time that you’ll need to use the material that you’re learning,” Cabacar said
Academic standing will not change for the time being as well, Cabacar said. She said this means that students who are on academic probation will have another semester in order to try and raise their GPA.
“That’s allowing for freshman who had a rough first semester to return in the fall without issue, but there will be a point where GPA is counted and goes back to the traditional method,” Cabacar said.
Walker Evans, a sophmore political science major, said that his internet connection at home is weak and it makes trying to open up and complete assignments a larger hassle than it was when studying at the university.
He welcomes the switch to pass/fail because now he knows that even if he is not satisfied with the grade that he earns in a class, his GPA will not be impacted due to events outside of his control.
“It’s not even like I can go to the public library because those have been shutting down due to coronavirus and the quarantine. It’s just a scary time and I’m glad that the university is at least trying to help those of us who have shoddy wifi access,” Evans said.