In response to challenges posed by the pandemic, Faculty Senate adopted a credit/no credit policy for the fall semester. (Letong Zhang/B&W Staff)

Faculty Senate confirms credit / no credit policy for fall semester

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Lehigh’s Faculty Senate voted in favor of adopting a similar academic grading policy for the fall semester as was implemented during the spring 2020 semester in which students will have the option to select from a credit/no credit policy for their courses.

The new policy will be made official pending verification from the Registrar’s Office and forthcoming email to the campus community.

Due to rising challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, students had been seeking a change to the grading policy. 

David Peterson, ‘21, a Student Senator, created a petition for students to sign to gain support for a pass/fail option for the semester. There are 1,964 signatures so far.

“The goal was to get the rough idea of how many students wanted this as an option,” Peterson said. 

The Registrar has already extended the add/drop policy until Dec. 4, which is weeks later in the semester than the usual add/drop date. 

Out of the 4,890 undergraduate students enrolled at Lehigh last spring, 48 percent selected the CR/DCR/NCR policy, meaning they opted for the credit/no credit policy for at least one course over the traditional letter grading system that gets factored into GPA calculations. The policy allows a student to potentially earn credit for completing a course without it impacting the student’s GPA. 

In the spring, a student can opt for the CR category to replace a C- or better and receive full credit. A DCR can be chosen in place of a D letter grade. Credit is given, but a DCR may not fulfill certain requirements or prerequisites. An NCR replaces an F and credit is not given.

In Friday’s Senate meeting, Frank Gunter, a professor of economics, said the fall 2020 policy will mimic a similar policy as in the spring with one minor change.

“Students must make a decision about the credit/no credit policy before the end of the semester, and before they have received their final grades,” Gunter said. 

In the spring semester, students were able to decide if they wanted the CR/NCR/DCR policy after receiving their final grades.

The date for when students must submit their decision has not been officially decided yet.

Students who opt in to the CR/NCR/DCR credit system will be excluded from dean’s list consideration.

Other concerns regarding this policy include student grades not being accessible to advisers. When students opt in to the credit/no credit policy, the letter grade is not displayed for the course. Instead, transcripts read either CR, NCR or DCR for those students.

Jenna Lay, an associate professor of English, said that was a concern from an advising point of view and wondered how to “better support these students.”

“It is a lot harder to advise students with CR/DCR/NCR,” Lay said, since the letter grade status of a student is unknown. 

Another concern was the notion of some courses being prerequisites for higher level courses. Adopting the policy for credit/no credit for a basic level course could possibly affect the weak foundation a student may have when continuing to higher level courses. 

The adopted policy for this semester, however, is more intended to alleviate stresses and pressures placed on students rather than erase a bad grade from a student’s transcript or GPA.

“Grades are not reflective of a students’ ability right now,” said Alyssa Milrod, ‘23, a member of Student Senate, noting the challenges of virtual instruction. “Study skills are not being gained from online courses. Grades are not always an accurate measure of a students’ work ethic.”

The Faculty Senate’s executive committee is on track to settle on a date with the Registrar by which students must decide whether or not to opt in to the credit/no credit policy for individual courses. 

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