College goes gradeless for students facing ‘immense burden’

Students expressed concern with the negative impacts of the coronavirus on their grades and college experience.

After the petition gained traction, the college agreed to the proposed solution.

Students at the College of New Jersey started a petition to change the spring semester grading system from a letter-based system to a pass/fail system.

The College of New Jersey has adopted a policy allowing students to have the option to convert their courses from standard letter grades to a credit vs. no credit option following a petition circulated by students amid the coronavirus shutdown.

In a campus-wide email, Interim Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs William W. Keep announced that students will have the option to request that “one, multiple, or all” of their courses be considered an “ungraded” course. The deadline for students to take a course as an ungraded option is April 24.

“Earlier this week, the Steering Committee asked the Committee on Academic Programs (CAP) to draft a temporary policy giving students the option to convert their course grades to credit/no credit for the Spring 2020 semester. After consultation with the Council of Deans, Faculty Senate, Student Government, and Staff Senate, Steering has approved the policy, conditional upon feedback from the campus community,” Keep wrote. 

[RELATED:  LIST: Nation’s top universities cancel commencement ceremonies amid COVID-19 pandemic]

College of New Jersey senior finance student Daniel Kramer created a petition this past weekend, calling on the college to provide an option of Pass/Fail grading for students for the Spring 2020 semester. The petition cites the “immense burden suddenly placed upon students and professors alike at the College” and suggests that it should be an option so that students’ academic careers are not negatively affected.

“Many classes, especially many Labs, are heavily based around group work and projects which require a level of collaboration that goes far beyond what is capable with just online communication softwares,” the petition read.

The petition had garnered over 2,100 signatures before the proposal was announced.

“A lot of students that I knew were nervous because their grade was not going to be reflective of what they could do if they were in class,” Kramer told Campus Reform.

[RELATED: Northwestern makes finals optional due to ‘incredible stress’ from coronavirus]

Kramer stated that many students, including those who were taking lab classes, were particularly worried about the impact on their GPA and how it could have negative consequences for the rest of their academic career or after graduation. He also expressed cautious optimism with the online module of classes.

“It’s great that they’re trying to push online classes,” Kramer said. “But professors are not really familiar with how to conduct these online classes.”

Kramer sent his petition to the president of the college, Dr. Kathryn A. Foster, who told him at the time that they were conducting a “serious exploration of the P/F option,” taking into account what other institutions are doing and will be meeting with deans from each school to develop a “proper emergency policy.”

“There’s a high chance that they’ll go through with it,” Kramer said. “There’s a lot of confusion on their part because everything is changing minute to minute, but it seems they’re going in that direction.”

[RELATED: Growing chorus of students demand colleges ‘pay us back’ amid coronavirus closures]

The College of New Jersey has not canceled classes for the rest of the semester but has told all students to stay off of campus and is conducting online classes. The college has also stated that students could fill out an application for prorated room and board credit.

The college has also said that it is planning to follow guidelines ordered by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in which in-person instruction has been suspended at all universities until further notice.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JesseStiller3