By Mike Sherr
Dr. Tracy Kress, associate professor of biology and chair of the Committee on Academic Programs (CAP), sent a community wide email on Feb. 26 containing a preliminary ungraded policy for the spring 2021 semester. The email also included information about three information sessions, one during the Student Government (SG) General Body meeting on March 3.
Kress attended the SG meeting to hear comments and recommendations on the proposal and to answer any questions members of the community may have. Kress heard mixed opinions and some skepticisms on whether the proposal would actually be implemented.
The proposal would allow any student to select one class to not have a letter grade on their transcript, but rather a CD (credit) or ND (no credit) instead. The different schools at the College essentially have the final say on which classes specifically can not be applied to the policy but the policy would be eligible for any class that is not a prerequisite, capstone or clinical.
The issue many students had was that the policy could only be applied to one class. During the spring 2020 semester, students could apply the graded/ungraded policy to as many classes as needed, but Kress reported that almost 80% of the student body applied the policy to only one or two classes at the time.
“We thought that one [class] was in line with what happened last year,” Kress told SG when she was giving the rationale behind the policy. “We wanted to support students in times of need…but also be very mindful of long-term consequences of the continuation of full pass/fail policy.”
Kress went on to say that students at other institutions are having trouble transferring credits to graduate programs because they are not marked with letter grades. This argument is the same as the one that was made in the fall during the SG meeting that heard a similar proposal.
When Kress opened up the meeting to comments, many of those that were able to speak had impassioned comments and questions on topics that had not been addressed yet.
Lana Abdelmohsen, a sophomore computer science major and a senator of the School of Science, gave a passionate speech conveying her and her constituents’ displeasure over the policy.
“What TCNJ seems to misunderstand is that we are all struggling,” she said. “Some of us…can not afford to have our GPAs drop.”
Abdelmohsen went on to express her severe dissatisfaction with the way the College has been academically handling the Covid-19 pandemic including camera and microphone policy and the drop periods extension last semester.
Kress responded that CAP charged itself with creating the spring 2021 policy because, “we know that students are still struggling. We wanted to come back and find something that would work well for our campus and students…but is also looking out for your long term best interests as well.”
Beyond the students that spoke during the meeting, there seems to be some support for CAP’s proposal. “I think it’s a good idea,” Ryan Lin, a freshman political science major and freshman class council secretary, told The Signal. “Everyone is going through their own struggles and I think this initiative can make a lot of lives easier.”
Santiago Salinas, a sophomore public health major and the head senator of the School of Nursing Health and Exercise Science, said “a lot of students have challenges…to have an ungraded policy would be helpful.”
Salinas is skeptical of the proposal since a similar one was brought forward and rejected for the fall 2020 semester. “I’m reluctant to say that this is actually going to happen based on what happened last semester. To me it just sounds like an empty promise.”
The final proposal will be given to the Steering Committee on March 10 to be voted on by members of SG, faculty Senate, and staff senate, but it’s unclear whether it will be implemented or if students will be left in a similar situation as they were in at the end of the fall semester.