CUNY Proposes New Grading Policy

Update: On March 30th, the CUNY Board of Trustees voted in approval of the flexible credit/no credit policy. It went into effect on April 1st. 

On Monday CUNY will decide whether to enact a flexible credit/no credit policy for students during the Spring 2020 semester in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All students would have the option to convert any of the letter grades they earn in their classes to credit/no credit, according to an announcement made by CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez on Tuesday.

If approved by the CUNY Board of Trustees, CUNY will join the pack of several other schools that have already implemented this policy or similar policies because of ongoing concerns over the effects COVID-19 may have on student academic performance under distance learning.

In advance of the proposal, Hunter students circulated a petition last week demanding this change. The petition pointed out challenges to online learning–including miscommunication, technical difficulties and some students being unable to return home–that challenge students ability to succeed in classes.

Rather than reflecting students’ true potential, letter grades would unfairly depend on “their comfort with online learning, level of resources, and their current personal situation,” according to the petition.

“It would not be fair because students may not have access to laptops, silent study areas, the office of accessibility, or other institutional resources,” said Andrew Shkreli, a junior at Hunter College and one of the almost 2,500 individuals who signed the petition.

The new credit/no credit option would help alleviate the stress on students to progress academically and provide students more authority over their grading situation during this crisis, petition supporters added.

“It will help me make a better informed decision,” said Muhammad Deen, a 20-year-old sophomore at Hunter College when asked why he supports the proposition.

In the current system, a student’s passing grade would show up as a “CR”, meaning that they received credit. Failing grades show up as “NC”, meaning the student did not receive credit. The actual letter grade given does not affect a student’s GPA.

This part of the policy remains in the new proposal. However, instead of usually having to submit credit/no credit forms ahead of receiving their grade, in the new proposal students can make this decision up to 20 business days after receiving their grades.

The current credit/no credit system also comes with its own guidelines depending upon the institution. Hunter currently does not allow for credit/no credit to be used for education, nursing, pre-engineering, premedical, health sciences, nutrition and food science, pre-law courses as well as remedial/developmental courses. Students also cannot use the credit/no credit option more than four times throughout their time at Hunter.

However, if enacted, this policy will overrule all program-level grading policies currently in effect at CUNY institutions, including those related to major, prerequisite, and honors courses as well as the maximum amount of times a student can use the credit/no credit option.

Some students say the proposal is not enough because the pass/fail option leaves student academic situations in jeopardy.

“A pass/fail system is not adequate because that still creates an opportunity for students to fail. That is not fair,” said Hunter College student activist, Briana Calderón Navarro, in a video she posted on YouTube. “Students who are struggling to transition to online curriculum should not be penalized.”

Navarro supports a different proposal, A for all, which would give students A’s for all their classes this semester. She said it cushions students who rely on their GPA in order to maintain their scholarships, visa status, and be good applicants for graduate school.

For those who are concerned about “potential impact to their financial aid, licensure requirements, and graduate school admissions,” the new credit/no credit proposal reads that “students will have to consult with their academic and financial advisors,” according to the announcement.

The proposal excludes the CUNY schools of Law and of Medicine; that will implement their own pass/fail policies.

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