OSU's pass/no pass option intended to help students

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OSU announced the details of its pass/ no pass grading option on Monday. The option is intended to help students, but it may affect graduate school applications in the future for students who opt in.

In response to the global health crisis, Oklahoma State University decided to have a pass/no pass grading option for students who may be struggling.

Students have until May 20, one week after the deadline for final grades to be posted, to choose whether to keep their given letter grade or receive a “Pass” (P) or “No Pass” (NP) on their transcript.

Student Body President Kaitlyn Kirksey hopes the option will allow students to prioritize their wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic.

“My hope is that this will give students the chance to prioritize their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing more than they would have been able to if we had stuck to the original grading system,” Kirksey said.

This option is an opt-in system; grades will default to a letter grade. Students must go online once grades are posted and select the P/NP option. If they do choose the P/NP, it will not affect the students’ GPAs.

All undergraduate students receiving a “D” or above may elect to receive a “P” instead. This even applies to classes that previously required a “C” as a prerequisite for future courses. Graduate and professional students must still earn a “C” to receive a “P”.

Many universities have made the same decision, including the University of Oklahoma. OU has many of the same guidelines and is also counting a “D” as a passing grade for undergraduate students this semester.

With a “D” now being considered a passing grade, the impact on courses where material builds over semesters may be harmful to students in the future. In a statement put together by Vice Provost Jeanette Mendez and her colleagues, Mendez said the policy is “not intended to make classes harder next semester.”

“For classes where content builds over multiple semesters, faculty have been asked to be mindful of how this semester might impact subsequent semesters, and colleges have already started working on ways to support faculty, staff and students so the transition into next semester is successful,” the statement said.

While this decision may lead to more work for students and staff in the following semesters, one student says it will be “extremely beneficial.”

That student, sociology major Leigh Welch, believes this decision is likely to help students who are coping with increased levels of depression and anxiety during an unprecedented pandemic.

“Isolation is extremely tolling on mental health,” Welch said. “That’s not even counting that many students are returning to home environments that aren’t conducive to work. This keeps away the additional anxiety of having to worry so much over their GPA.”

On OSU’s website, a list of frequently asked questions about the policy can be found to help guide students concerned about how this will affect their future.

This decision could possibly affect a student’s competitiveness when applying for graduate and professional programs. The university anticipated this concern in it’s FAQ, but said it’s difficult to anticipate how other universities will handle the situation.

A student in this particular situation, senior electrical engineering major Jacob Robbins, said the disruption caused by COVID-19 “extends well beyond OSU.”

“Most of the world is dealing with this,” Robbins said. “Billions of people are going to have this same stumbling block on their resume. Every industry is going to have a hiccup where the spring and summer of 2020 is concerned.”

The Office of Academic Affairs encourages students to begin consulting with advisers, faculty members and other program coordinators now for guidance on electing P/NP grades.