Spring Quarter 2020 undergraduate P/NP units are exempt from university-wide 1/3 unit cap due to COVID-19
For the first time, the Academic Senate has extended the deadline to opt into undergraduate Pass/No Pass (P/NP) and graduate Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading until June 4, the last day of instruction. Spring Quarter has also been exempt from the university and college specific undergraduate P/NP unit caps.
Though these amendments allow all students the ability to switch between letter and P/NP or S/U grading up until the last day of instruction, they do not override specific college or major requirements, such as whether major courses can be taken as P/NP. It is recommended that students meet with an academic advisor before the last day of instruction to explore the impacts of P/NP grading on their degree.
Taking a course as P/NP may also affect satisfactory academic progress, time to degree, financial aid and admission to graduate school, as it remains unclear how graduate and professional schools will adjust their admissions requirements, if at all, in response to changes resulting from the pandemic.
Though this is the first time that the deadline to switch between P/NP and letter grading has been extended past the 25th day of instruction, it’s not the first time that the change has been considered. The Academic Senate considered extending the deadline at the end of this past Winter Quarter, due to coronavirus, and in November of 2018, during the university’s temporary closure due to the Camp Fire.
“Because there are so many risks for negative consequences for students to take a class P/NP with regard to major requirements, time to graduation, academic progress, financial aid and professional school requirements, […] we really wanted students to meet individually with advisors to make those decisions so they can make a fully informed decision,” said Academic Senate Chair Kristin Lagattuta.
When the campus ceased operations and the university moved to remote instruction, the risk of negative consequences were outweighed by the flexibility and relief that an extended period of opting into P/NP would allow.
UC Davis Provost Ralph Hexter said the decision to extend the deadline was the best way to give students “some peace of mind when there are so many other things that we cannot give people peace of mind about at this moment.”
“It gives people the freedom to say ‘Okay, I’ll sign up, it doesn’t have a heavy cost, I can take P/NP,’” Hexter said. “As they gain confidence, they can switch back to a grade, if that’s what they would like to do.”
Students are able to switch between P/NP and letter grading as many times as they want to until June 4, giving students as much opportunity as possible to make the right decision for them through advising and self-reflection with no cost to the university.
Instructors are unable to see a student’s choice for P/NP or letter grading, regardless of how many times a student switches between the two. Instructors submit every student’s grade as a percentage — the same process as has been the case during every other quarter.
“The change has been programmed into Schedule Builder, so we are able to manage the requests from students to change to P/NP in the same way as other quarters,” said University Registrar Erin Crom via email.
Though the logistics of grading largely remain the same, student experience does not. Many students face fears about having a stable WiFi connection, having a quiet space to work and take exams in and the shifting and uncertain workload of remote instruction.
“One of the things that I think is so important about being on campus and being part of university is that you’re in an extraordinary environment where everyone is focused, first and foremost, on taking a series of classes,” Hexter said. “There are both subtle and not so subtle clues that we all get when we’re in an environment that supports us, and actually encourages us, to put our energies and our mental focus on learning.”
Though this environment is now different, Hexter said there may also be unseen positives in the extension of P/NP grading.
“If there’s something that is very disconnected from your area or something you have just no prior experience in but are really intrigued by, that seems to me the perfect occasion to select P/NP,” he said. “It would let you really dig more deeply and learn about an area that you might have had no previous experience in.”
Written by: Jessica Baggott — firstname.lastname@example.org