New 'G' grading policy will allow Pitt professors to pass students who don't complete coursework by end of semester

A new University of Pittsburgh policy will give professors the option to give students a passing grade, even if they don't complete the class coursework.

One professor told Campus Reform that he is not taking points off of assignments submitted late.

Citing COVID-19 related stress levels the University of Pittsburgh will now allow professors to give students a passing grade, even if they didn’t finish the required coursework by the end of the term.

In an announcement to the University of Pittsburgh community, Joseph J. McCarthy, the vice provost for undergraduate studies, said that the university will be modifying the “’G grade’ (incomplete for extenuating circumstances)” to give professors the option to give a student a passing grade, even if they haven’t finished the necessary coursework.

”This new process will allow a ‘fallback grade’ to be recorded in cases where a student has done enough to achieve a passing grade in a course but would like more time to finish some well-defined final assignments,” the email states.

During a March 16 University Senate’s Faculty Affairs committee meeting, McCarthy said that the university will allow professor’s to assign students a grade for coursework that they weren’t able to finish after being given an extension beyond the typical semester. 

”In fact, the only thing that we are changing is allowing faculty to have the option of noting — at the time that they award the G grade — the grade to which an expired G grade should revert. That is, currently, all expired G grades revert to an NG grade, but if a faculty member were to note a ‘fallback grade’ then expired G grades will revert to the identified fallback grade instead,” McCarthy said.”

According to the Pitt News, some professors agree with the new policy.

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Ilia Murtazashvili, an associate professor from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs told the newspaper that both the university and professors need to be understanding of students’ lack to fully perform academically during a global pandemic and that the grades given should mirror their understanding of the struggle of being in school.

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“You need to recognize that what constitutes ‘A’ work in the pandemic is different from what constitutes ‘A’ work in normal times. People should be able to get an ‘A,’ even if they’ve been at 50% ability to do their work or less the past year,” Murtazashvili said.

Another professor, Chris Bonneau, a political science professor and president of the University Senate told the Pitt News that most professors will use the ‘G’ grade when the coursework can not be initially completed, but can later change it to a normal letter grade once the work is completed before the end of the next semester. 

“As an instructor, I can say, ‘Well look, you’ve done 80% of the work in the class, so if for whatever reason you can’t complete it, then your ‘G’ grade will revert to a ‘C’ as opposed to a ‘no grade,” Bonneau said.

Tyler Vilijaste, president of the University of Pittsburgh Student Government Board, told the newspaper that he fears the new policy will create a “burden” on students.

”This seems like an already inadequate solution and it’s not addressing the needs of students, it’s not really promoting this Flex@Pitt model that a lot of us were anticipating and hoping for. It puts a lot more burden on the students during an already stressful time,” Vilijaste added.

Ilia Murtazashvili, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh graduate school of public and international affairs, told Campus Reform that the pandemic is continuing to cause major challenges for students.

“For students who are working as much as they can, it is important that our standards for gradings allow us to reward excellence, subject to constraints. As those constraints change, and things get back to normal, the expectations will change as well,” Murtazashvili said.

Murtazashvili also discussed his approach to grading this semester, stating that he is not taking points off for late work.

“This semester, I am not taking off points for late work, which reflects that many of our students have jobs and childcare responsibilities that are a result of the pandemic,” Murtazashvili said.

“For example, we have several children in Pittsburgh Public Schools. Our district has not been open since last March. I think schools should not have closed at all, and that this is a disaster for parents and students who have kids in the public schools, so I appreciate that during this time, having kids at home - especially small children - is something that is relevant in understanding how we approach grading. But more generally, I personally try not to think like a bureaucrat who mechanically applies rules without consideration of changes in the context. Whether in markets or schools or government, flexibility in response to changing circumstances is a good thing,” he added. 

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