Katrina Fett, ‘23, a Lehigh student and contributor to The Brown and White, heard of other schools switching to “credit/no credit” for spring 2020 semester, so she started a petition for Lehigh to do the same. She got almost 2,900 signatures, which is over halfway to her goal of 5,000. (Annalise Kelloff/B&W Staff)

Students petition for credit and no credit courses

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Students will now have the option to take classes with a “credit/no credit” option for the spring semester as a result of the shift to remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Provost Office announced on March 19. 

In an email to the university, Provost Pat Farrell explained the system that he formulated along with the Student Senate representatives, the Educational Policy Committee, the chair of Faculty Senate and other university leaders. 

“Undergraduate students will be able to elect out of the regular grading system and convert a course grade to what we will call the CR (credit) grading system,” the email said. Beginning in April until semester grades are released in the Banner system at the end of the semester, students will have the option to adopt this system for certain courses.

This decision came after discussion — led by a student petition — surrounding how the university would respond to the abrupt changes in learning environment and classroom instruction.

Katrina Fett, ‘23, a contributor to The Brown and White, started a virtual petition that quickly gained 2,600 signatures. Fett said she had heard of the possibility of this occurring at the university and some of her friends at other universities had talked about it as well.  

“The switch to online learning definitely takes away a lot of options like going to office hours, talking to your professor face-to-face, having a quiet space to study, interacting with your peers, etc.,” Fett said. “It seemed that it wouldn’t really be possible for professors to grade their students fairly on the traditional basis, so I thought credit/no credit was a good option for students to have, in case they felt that they might do worse because of the switch.” 

Students also do not need to make a blanket decision either way. A student could elect to take a letter grade in one course, but opt in to the CR grading system in another.

Matthew Gilchrist, director of Rauch Business Center of Communications, said he believes the university made the “right call” by adopting this system. 

“It’s important that faculty is flexible and understands that students’ circumstances are individual,” Gilchrist said. “You can’t assume any one thing about a group of students, because every student has their own experience with this discussion.” 

The email laid out the three possible outcomes if a student chose to use this system: CR designation, DCR designation and NCR designation. 

A CR would replace a grade of C- or better, fulfilling all college and major requirements. DCR designation would apply to a “D” letter grade, where credit is given but the grade may not be satisfactory for certain requirements. NCR designation would replace an F in the course and the student would be granted no credit. 

Only the letter grade would impact a student’s GPA. Electing to take the CR grading system will not impact the student’s GPA. 

“In light of the transition to remote learning, I worried about how I would be able to manage work, deadlines, and exams all without seeing anyone in person,” said Gabriel Trajonwski, ‘23. “I was definitely super concerned.” 

Fett said the new system makes the most sense for the current circumstances as they relate to academics. 

“I think it’s the best of both worlds,” Fett said. “Obviously, you can pick to do the traditional system if that’s what benefits you and, if that doesn’t benefit you, then you can do the credit no credit…I think it’s perfect.”

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