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UVa students get grading choices of letter or credit

University of Virginia students suffering stress, anxiety and internet connectivity troubles in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic will have the option of receiving course credit without a letter grade, school officials have decided.

The move allows students to choose a credit/general credit/no credit grading system rather than the usual letter grading system. Classes taken under the credit system will not impact grade point average.

The move, made by administrators on Friday, came in the wake of student efforts to make the change, including online petitions, lobbying and a resolution by the UVa Student Council.

“This summer we announced a return to regular grading for fall 2020 because we believed that the exceptional circumstances last spring that prompted the mid-semester change in grading policy were not likely to recur,” UVa Provost Liz Magill wrote Friday in an open letter to students, faculty and staff.

That, she said, proved to not be the case.

“We decided to revisit our grading decision after many exchanges with students, student leaders, and faculty and staff who work most closely with students,” she wrote. “They reported high levels of stress, anxiety, and personal and family challenges among large numbers of students, and all encouraged both the deans and me to consider flexible grading options this semester.”

She said a decision regarding grading options for the spring 2021 semester will be announced in early December.

Student Council members said in a letter posted Saturday on social media that they “celebrate” the change.

“While it is not the specific policy we had worked for, we are glad that there is now a system in place that will provide students some of the flexibility they need to navigate this incredibly challenging semester,” members wrote.

Council leaders said the change is welcomed, but that UVa officials should consult with students when deciding how to grade courses in the next semester.

“This win is a reminder that student self-governance done right is fundamentally about the collective bargaining power of students,” student council members wrote. “While we are grateful that the administration listened to students on this issue, it is important to emphasize that the administration must consult students before putting policies in place.”

Under the new grading option, UVa students may change methods for undergraduate classes not yet complete. They may do so between Nov. 2 and Nov. 6.

Last spring, the university switched students to the credit/no credit program in the face of the pandemic, but students will need to make the change themselves for the remainder of the current semester, officials said.

If a change to the credit/no credit system is not made by the student, the class will be graded with letter grades as usual.

Magill said university deans agreed unanimously to the changes.

“While no decision about grading will be welcomed by all, on balance, this solution seemed the most targeted to the legitimate and serious concerns raised by students, faculty, and staff, without changing the grading system in ways that would have additional consequences for students and faculty who are relying on giving or receiving standard grades,” she said.

According to administrators, the for-credit system has three rankings. A CR, or credit received, is given to students who meet all class requirements, basically a C-grade or higher. A GC, or general credit, is given for passing scores below a C-grade.

NC, or no credit, is awarded for class performance that would, in a letter-grade system, score an F.

The option applies only to undergraduate students. Law, business and medical school students are affected by the change. UVa will include a notation on transcripts that the credit option was offered during the COVID-19 crisis.


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