Message from Provost Stevens - Fall 2020 Pass Option
- Cheryl L. Stevens
- Tuesday, December 1st, 2020
As you have likely heard, SGA (unanimously) and Faculty Senate (40-9) passed resolutions for WKU to reinstitute the emergency PDF option from the spring semester for the current fall semester. When SGA approached our office to reinstitute PDF in late October, we were hesitant because the situations have been fundamentally different—in the spring, students and faculty had to shift to remote learning without warning while in the fall students and faculty had time to prepare. The spring PDF option also led to some challenges with financial aid and degree awards, and students in certain programs did not have access to the PDF grading because of licensure/program accreditation environments. Finally, we had concerns about the need to follow our policies as we approach our 5th-year SACSCOC review, and chief among those policies and principles, is the need to keep the awarding of grades in the hands of faculty.
SGA has made a case and presented evidence that a number of students have faced and continue to face additional challenges this semester because of the pandemic. SGA representatives have presented nearly twenty pages of testimonials and have argued that the stress of this semester brought about by illness and quarantine for themselves, their roommates, and family members along with shifting course modalities and communication challenges will significantly impact student performance and particularly GPA. They argue that the PDF option will provide them with significant emotional relief and provide a buffer for the measurement of their academic performance. Faculty Senate, as noted above, endorsed the request for PDF.
Over the past few weeks, we have communicated with and listened to SGA, deans, representative department heads, the registrar, ACDC personnel, financial aid officers, and Senate Executive Committee, and the full Faculty Senate. While SGA and Senate have very strong support for PDF, other constituents have serious reservations. Ultimately, we are still not comfortable reinstituting the PDF option for the reasons stated above, but we have found some middle ground that protects students and provides time for them to make thoughtful decisions about grading, that supports faculty ownership of grades, and that protects the integrity of the institution through maintaining implementation of existing policies.
As you know, we have already modified current policy by extending the withdrawal date (December 4) to allow students more time to determine if they can succeed in a course before withdrawing. We have also advised students about options for incomplete grades so that students who were ill or in quarantine have additional time to improve performance. Finally, we have advised students about the academic complaint process for cases in which they believe they have been treated unfairly and to give faculty and students a fair process to seek satisfactory resolutions.
The new action we have decided to take is to modify our current change of grade policy to allow students who have faced COVID-related problems this semester to request a shift of grades of Bs and Cs to Ps following this process:
- Students will email faculty from their WKU email accounts, include their names, 800#s, course and section numbers, and COVID-related justifications.
- If faculty approve, they will forward to their department heads the student’s email, the faculty member’s consent, and an indication of the actual change of grade (i.e., change B to P or C to P). If DHs approve, they will submit the email chain and their consent to Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org (the registrar’s direct email address) for processing.
- Students must send requests by January 13. Faculty must approve or explicitly decline by January 20. DHs must approve or decline by January 27.
Obviously, this is not a perfect solution—those have been rare in 2020—but given the circumstances, this is a reasonable solution that keeps final grade assignments in the hands of individual faculty, diminishes potential problems with financial aid, keeps us more aligned with our normal processes, and slows down the decision-making process to reduce the likelihood that we will have other unforeseen consequences.
Cheryl L. Stevens
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs