A Quarantined Student’s Guide to Electing “Pass/No Pass”

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No student or teacher began spring semester thinking it would end online. For many students, the past month has felt like a labyrinth of news notifications, face masks, self-isolation, and online classes. The reality is that nobody has a Sparknotes on how to navigate a pandemic in 2020. With the last in-person class being March 20th, students, teachers, and administration have grappled with how to handle the transition. 

As a reaction to online classes, sophomore Michael Davidson started a petition late March requesting a “Pass/No Pass” grading system. The petition spread fast. Within a few days of going public, the petition had hundreds of signatures. 

Davidson started the petition “mainly to keep a good GPA during this rough transition,” and many students shared his sentiment. 

“It [the petition] makes sense,” said Joseph Schmitz. “Many GPA’s will drop due to this online switch. There are students who can’t learn in the same way as they do in a classroom.”

Senior Michael Relloque signed the petition for another reason. “At first I had a very hard time coping with the fact that I had to still do homework while the entire world was collapsing,” he said. “I signed because I realistically did not think I would be able to focus on anything school related.”

The petition currently stands at 534 signatures, more than a quarter of Pacific’s undergrad population. 

Yet administration was already in the process of creating a “Pass/No Pass” grading before students started signing the petition, according to Sarah Phillips, Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences.

“I actually didn’t know about the petition for a while,” says Phillips. “Colleges and universities had been doing this [implementing “Pass/No Pass”] across the country and what we were trying to do is think of every possible way we could reduce the pressure on students and faculty.” 

To Pass or Not to Pass: Here’s What You Should Know

Students will be able to elect for Pass/No Pass at the end of the semester, after seeing their final letter grade. “What students do need to know is that once they make that decision, it’s done. They can’t go back to their letter grade,” says Phillips, explaining that there’s no limit to the number of classes students can choose as “Pass/No Pass.” 

A “Pass” is equivalent to “C” while a “No Pass” is equivalent to a “C-” or lower. For Pacific, a “Pass” during Spring 2020 works the same as receiving a letter grade. It will count towards any major, minor, general education, prerequisite or other degree requirement that typically needs a letter grade. 

Yet Phillips cautions students about whether or not to choose “Pass/No Pass.” “For some students it’s not a good idea to have ‘Pass/No Pass,’ particularly those looking at graduate school, medical school or health professions programs,” she explains. “Those programs are notably not very flexible in terms of what they accept.” 

Mike Shingle, Director of Academic and Career Advising, expands on this. “If a student is interested in grad school, they should reach out to the program they plan to apply to, and ask if a ‘Pass’ grade for this semester would work for a prerequisite course. If they hear a no, don’t hear anything, or want to be on the safe side, they should take a letter grade,” he shares. Shingle says he hasn’t received any guidance from Pacific’s own health programs around if they would accept a “Pass” as a letter grade.

Another thing to know about the “Pass/Fail” option is that grades of “C,” “C+,” or a “C-” are a bit of a grey area when deciding whether or not to choose “Pass/No Pass.” The decision can depend on a variety of factors such as academic standing, GPA, or the decision to attend grad school. “If students are on the border of “C” or “C-,” they should have a discussion with an advisor on what they should do,” he says.

When it comes to grades of “A-” or “B+,” Shingle recommends taking the grade. With a grade of “F,” he says it’s best to take the “No Pass.”

Pacific is in the process of figuring out how students will be able to elect the Pass/No Pass option. “Ideally we will have an online process, but right now that doesn’t exist. We’re trying to figure out what we can build,” Phillips says. 

When choosing whether or not to elect for the Pass/No Pass option, here’s a few quick things to keep in mind:

  • A “Pass” is equivalent to a “C” in Pacific University’s system.
  • A “No Pass” is equivalent to a “C-” or lower. 
  • A “Pass” during Spring 2020 will count for any major, minor, prerequisite, general education, or other degree requirements that typically require a letter grade.  
  • Choosing “Pass/No Pass” is final. Once the decision is made, students cannot return to their letter grades
  • Courses elected as “Pass/No Pass” will not count toward GPA calculations. 
  • There is no limit to the number of classes a student can choose as “Pass/No Pass” for this semester (Spring 2020).
  • If students take no action at the end of the semester, they will by default receive their letter grade.
  • Consider the implications of a “Pass” if you are planning on applying to professional programs or graduate school. 
  • The advising center wants to help! If you are unsure what to do, contact the advising center at advisingcenter@pacificu.edu 

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