The New Pass/No Pass Deadline has Students feeling Cheated

The Academic Advising Center moved locations in Beckman Hall. Photo by Marcella Zizzo.

Some students say the new, shortened pass/no pass policy has reduced their willingness to sign up for classes they fear they won’t ace.

Chapman’s revision of the pass/no pass policy this fall includes lowering all passing grades to meet a minimum of “C-” rather than the previous “C” standard, as well as limiting the allotted amount of pass/no pass credits to six per academic year–which is considered the terms of Fall through the end of Summer. It does not include courses that are only offered as pass/no pass.

Students are usually not allowed to register a major or minor course as pass/no pass unless they receive permission from their department chair.

But the least popular aspect of the changes is its shortened deadline to register a course as pass/no pass.

For the 2018/19 year, the Faculty Undergraduate Academic Council sliced the timeframe in which a student could change a course from graded to pass/no pass in half – from 10 weeks to five.

The short deadline is “annoying” and “rude,” said junior PR & advertising student Nora Viarnes.

Five weeks isn’t enough time to fully decide if a student will perform well in a class, according to Viarnes.

“It’s unfair because you don’t really know that you’re going to struggle that hard. It’s hard to tell [how you’ll do in a class] that early,” Viarnes said.

Some students say they now have too little time to determine whether or not they need to switch to pass/no pass to preserve their grade point average.  

A benefit that some students see to the pass/no pass option is that there is no reflection on their transcript of any lost points, should they not pass. A student who opts into pass/no pass would just not receive credit, if they did not pass, and would have to repeat the course again if they needed to pass for their degree.

At Chapman, if a student chooses to pass/no pass their course, they will receive a grade of “P” or “NP,” rather than a letter grade on their transcripts.

Thus, their GPA won’t change, either positively or negatively. Pass/no pass only tracks whether or not a student passed the course.

Some students feel as if they don’t have enough time to determine whether or not they will do well in a class, especially since some professors don’t post grades until later in the semester.

Faculty Undergraduate Academic Council was “concerned that the 10-week period to change the grading method was too lax,” according to Vice President for Undergraduate Education Nina LeNoir, when asked why Chapman made the changes.

LeNoir said that having a pass/no pass option is set in place “to encourage students to take classes outside their major discipline that they may find challenging but have an interest in.”

The deadline was halved to put Chapman in line with other universities’ standards, said LeNoir, noting, “most schools have much shorter P/F or P/NP decision times.”

But, some students find that the shortened timestamp on declaring a class as pass/no discourages students from taking risks or registering from classes that are an academic stretch.

The new deadline made sophomore peace studies major Preetha Raj, regret trying new classes.

Raj was considering switching to a different major and decided to take a course in that subject to see if it would be a good fit. After the first few weeks of school, she was unable to tell how she was doing because she didn’t have any grades yet.

“I wasn’t able to really gauge how I was doing in the class until after that five-week deadline,” Raj said.

After finding out she wasn’t doing well in the class, Raj was stuck in the course with no way to protect her transcript, as the pass/no pass deadline had run out.

The pass/no pass deadline plays “a huge role in how you’re planning out your next four years,” Raj said.  

“At five weeks in, you don’t even know what your projected grade could be in the class,” and that moving up the deadline only impedes the process of deciding whether or not one actually needs the option of pass/no pass.

“If anything it just stresses students out,” Raj said.

The updated policy prevents students from experimenting with new courses, according to Viarnes.

“The [general education courses] here vary so outrageously from, like, super easy to ridiculously hard for no reason,” Viarnes said.

LeNoir said that she does not view the pass/no pass option as simply a grade-saver.

“It is meant to encourage intellectual curiosity, not to save a GPA,” said LeNoir.

“A student should have the ability to evaluate whether or not the class is at the level at which they wish to take it for a letter grade or pass/fail upon reading the syllabus, and through several class meetings,” according to LeNoir.

LeNoir said she is unable to release the number of students who have dropped out of a course until the end of the current term.

Nearly two percent of courses were changed to pass/no pass per semester within the last academic year, with the most common pass/no pass courses being foreign languages and mathematics, according to LeNoir.

Still, some students don’t believe the pass/no pass option is the best academic move.

“I just always felt like I could just get the grade I’m going to get than pass/no pass it and then have that show up on my transcript,” said Bailee Cochran, a junior business major.

By moving up the deadline to switch to pass/no pass, the university is leaving students with little option to shield their GPAs from a bad mark, Cochran said.

“Not everyone is just trying to get out of working hard in their class. Some people really do need [the option of pass/no pass].”

Marcella Zizzo

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