Updated March 21, 2020 at 7:38 p.m. to include student reactions to the policy.
Elon University students can choose to have their spring semester classes be graded on a pass/fail scale.
According to an email from Provost Aswani Volety sent to faculty and staff, this policy was developed by The Provost's Office and academic deans in consultation with the Academic Standing Committee and the Academic Council.
The new policy comes after classes were moved online as a precaution against the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Online classes have been extended to April 20.
This new policy will apply to undergraduate courses, but students have the option to determine which classes they want to receive a letter grade in or a pass/fail. The policy defines a pass as a “C” or higher.
Students have the option to decide on a pass/fail grade or a letter grade between April 27 until May 19, which is the last day of final exams.
Volety wrote that giving students this option was a central component of the policy.
“Under this policy, students have control over the form of their final grades for the semester. Students may elect to receive a letter grade or a pass/fail grade in each of their courses,” Volety said. “The choice to designate any course pass/fail, and the responsibility for doing so, resides with the individual student.”
Elon senior, Brenner Jones, started a petition on March 19, urging the university to switch to a pass/fail system. As of March 21, the petition has almost 1,300 signatures.
"When I thought of the petition, I had my fellow classmates in mind," Jones said. "We were all caught by surprise, and originally expected to spend two weeks outside of the classroom which later turned to at least four weeks. I, along with a lot of my fellow peers, saw this as a huge obstacle, and felt very overwhelmed."
Brenner said that the actions of other universities — like Duke University — was one of the reasons he was in favor of the pass/fail scale.
Duke University, another North Carolina private institution, moved to a satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading scale. Duke, however, moved all courses online for the remainder of the spring semester. Like Jones, students at Duke also started a petition to change their university’s grading policy.
Upon seeing the petition, Elon sophomore, Kyle West, had some reservations about the pass/fail scale. West said a pass/fail system would is "not optimal" for some students such as those who are on academic probation, those who are trying to boost their GPA and for juniors and seniors whose future career is contingent on their grades.
West said that he believed the new policy was the "best" the university's administration could do.
"I would say this is the best response to the situation at hand that Elon administration has offered to the students and parents," West said.
Jones said he was "relieved," by the administration's decision to give students a choice between pass/fail or a letter grade.
"It honestly helps the majority of students because if they end up not doing as well as they had planned, they have until the last day of final exams to switch over to pass/fail," Jones said.