In response to student feedback and in recognition of the obstacles present due to the coronavirus pandemic, Concordia University has approved a pass/fail option for its undergraduate students this semester.
Last week, Concordia’s plenary faculty overwhelmingly agreed to adopt an exception to its normal grading policy. Under the temporarily adjusted policy, students will still receive letter grades for each class they take, but they now may elect to receive on their transcript a “Virus Pass” or “Virus Fail” designation instead. The grading exception is available to all traditional undergraduate students, post-traditional undergraduates, and non-degree seeking undergraduate candidates currently enrolled in spring 2020 semester courses.
The Registrar’s Office continues to work out details regarding the new policy and will email updates as the semester progresses.
“We see this as a way to extend flexibility and alleviate some of the stress that has been placed upon our students and faculty,” said Provost William Cario, Ph.D. “Acknowledging that these are unprecedented times, we felt it only right to give back some control to our students.”
Faculty members in the plenary meeting offered compelling arguments for the decision, said Cario, including the stress of some families’ home dynamics, overloaded or insufficient access to the internet, and the challenges inherent in taking synchronous classes in different time zones and in doing some coursework asynchronously.
Below are a few frequently asked questions regarding the Virus Pass/Fail Option. Responses have been provided by Concordia’s leadership team.
Q. Can all students choose the VP (or Virus Pass)/ VF (or Virus Fail) option?
Only undergraduate students can choose the VP/VF option. It is not available for Concordia’s graduate students. The VP/VF option will be available to all traditional undergraduate students enrolled in Spring 2020 semester, including those enrolled in fully online and/or face-to-face courses at centers. This policy exception option applies to post-traditional undergraduate students who are currently enrolled in Term D and/or Term E courses and have not yet received a letter grade. This option is also available to all those individuals who are non-degree students taking an undergraduate course.
Q. What about undergraduate students taking graduate courses?
The VP/VF option is available only for undergraduate students enrolled in undergraduate courses; undergraduate students taking graduate courses will not be able to choose VP/VF in their graduate courses.
Q. Why is a “C” the minimum grade to receive a VP?
Concordia’s normal grading scale sets “D- “ as the lowest passing grade, but a higher bar will incentivize students to continue learning and turning in academic work.
Q. If a student earns a grade of C-, D+. D or D-, how would a VF benefit that student?
A course with a VF grade will not count toward graduation or toward degree requirements, and the student will not earn academic credit for that course. Students who choose a VF grade will need to successfully re-take the course in order to earn academic credit for it. Some students may choose to accept the letter grade and the course credit, while others may prefer to take a VF so that the GPA is not negatively impacted.
Q. If a student earns a high grade in a course, why would that student choose VP?
It is unlikely that a student who has earned a high grade will select the VP option, but this proposal allows each student to decide what is best for him or her.
Q. How will others know what VP or VF means?
Concordia transcripts will clearly state that a VP is equivalent to a letter grade of “C” or higher, and that VF will be equivalent to a letter grade of “C-“ or below.
Q. Will choosing the VP/VF option have a negative impact on my future acceptance to graduate school or professional school?
It is possible that VP/VF grades on a transcript could affect future acceptance to graduate school. At this time, no one is certain how this semester will affect graduate school appointments. Professional and faculty advisors are available for this discussion, but they are also waiting to see the implications of COVID-19. Therefore, students with potential interest in graduate programs should be very careful about choosing the VP/VF option!
Q. How will employers, graduate schools, and professional schools evaluate VP/VF grades? Will I be at a disadvantage if I select to convert my grades to VP or VF?
Many universities in the country are providing a pass/fail option this semester. While we can’t predict exactly what will happen in the future, many students nationwide will have COVID-related grades on their transcript in 2020. It is possible that VP/VF grades on a transcript could affect future acceptance to graduate school. If you are concerned about these issues please work with your advisor.
Q. Will choosing the VP/VF option have a negative impact on Concordia financial aid?
No, other than any impact of a passing or failing grade might normally have.
Q. Will choosing the VP/VF option negatively impact athletic eligibility?
A VP grade in a class does indicate that a student has earned credit for that course. It is possible that VP/VF grades could affect athletic eligibility for some student athletes, depending on their individual GPAs. Student athletes will need to confer with their coaches and athletic directors to be fully informed about the potential implications.
Q. What if my course is already a pass/fail course because it’s an internship/practicum /research experience/coop etc.?
Courses that already use pass/fail grading will not be impacted by this policy. These instructors will use the regular pass/fail indicators in their grading.
Q. How will the process work?
During the traditional spring 2020 final exam week, the Registrar’s Office will inform traditional undergraduate students of the specific process to choose a VP/VF grade for a class. Faculty members will submit course grades by the end of the day on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. From 22 May through 5 June 2020 students will be able to review the posted grades and choose the option of VP/VF for any or all of them. After June 5, students will not be able to use this option to change a grade.
Post-traditional students in term D will have approximately 2 weeks after the submission of grades on 10 May to choose their VP/VF options, if they so desire. Those students in term E will have approximately 2 weeks after submission of grades on 21 June to choose their options. The Registrar will work with Extended Campus team and center directors to communicate more details. As is the case with traditional students, after the closure of the option time, students will be unable to change a grade.
Please note that the pass/fail process will delay mailing diplomas and transcripts to our AA, BA, BS and BSN graduates by about 2 weeks.
Q. How many other colleges and universities are offering this or something similar?
Many are offering pass/fail or a similar option, but it’s hard to say exactly how many. We know that the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marquette University, and most of the WAICU schools are offering some kind of pass/fail grading, as are most of the Concordias. Concordia University-St. Paul is an exception.
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