The University Senate passes proposals Thursday to allow undergraduate students to change their general education and elective courses to a pass/nonpass grading structure. | Credit: Lantern file photo

Students at Ohio State will now have the option for their general education and elective courses graded on a pass/nonpass scale due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University Senate passed proposals Thursday to allow undergraduate students to change their general education and elective courses to a pass/nonpass grading structure and extend the time period for students granted incomplete grades to finish coursework the following term from six weeks to 10 weeks.

“This will help promote flexibility in the interest of fairness and equity to our students, as well as being in the best interest of our students’ mental health and overall wellbeing,” Russell Marzette, chair of the Council on Enrollment and Student Progress, said.

The university began exclusively online classes for the remainder of spring semester Monday following an extended spring break. Students staying in campus residence halls moved out between March 14 and 22 unless granted an exemption to remain in the dorms.

“It’s been a shocking and sudden change and required flexibility and really we’re in a world that we hadn’t anticipated even a month or two ago,” University President Michael V. Drake said. “The flexibilities for everyone — our students, our faculty, our staff — in moving to this new world has been tremendous.”

Bruce McPheron, university executive vice president and provost, announced the two proposals in an email to the university community March 20. Prior to the announcement, a petition to provide students a pass/nonpass option was started by Jade Musa, a third-year in political science — at the time of publication, the petition had 3,883 signatures.

On Wednesday, the Undergraduate Student Government unanimously passed a resolution recommending that the university encourage each individual college to give students the option to keep their grades or have their courses marked as a pass or no pass with no implications toward their GPA.

The pass/nonpass proposal received 98 percent support in the University Senate — two percent abstained. The total number of votes was not immediately available during the virtual meeting because senators voted by electronic ballot.

The proposal allows all undergraduate students the choice to move any general education and elective courses to a pass/nonpass option until April 17, eliminates the 2.0 GPA requirement to participate in pass/nonpass grading and removes the pass/nonpass 20 credit hour cap. Students will not be required to change any courses to pass/nonpass grading.

“This is nothing that would be automatic,” Marzette said. “Students would have to make the best decision for their current situation.”

Marzette said that individual colleges will determine if the resolution applies to major, minor and specialization courses as well as graduate students. Many colleges have already made that decision, including the College of Arts and Sciences and the Fisher College of Business.

Gretchen Ritter, executive dean and vice provost of the College of Arts and Sciences, announced in an email Sunday that the college will allow its students to take major and minor courses for pass/nonpass credit this semester in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dean Anil Makhija said in an email to students Wednesday that the pass/nonpass option for general education courses and electives proposals will extend to all undergraduate, graduate and PhD Fisher College of Business courses. This includes major, minor and specialization classes.

The proposal to extend the time period for students to finish incomplete coursework to 10 weeks into the following term passed the University Senate with 94 percent support — six percent abstained.

Drake said the extension of the time period can be reconsidered later in the spring if it is evident further time is needed. Students will also be able to petition for longer completion time periods.

“The steps that we’ve taken over these past couple of weeks, all of the sacrifices and changes that you have made have been the best thing possible to flatten the curve and limit the rise of the curve and area under the curve and help us get over this pandemic as quickly as possible,” Drake said.

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