Professors, advisers and university officials often encourage students to balance their course loads by enrolling in classes that interest them and enrolling in rigorous classes outside of their subject areas for the purposes of broadening their skills. But what happens when these risky classes become too much for a student to handle?
In past years, students only had the option of dropping or applying the Pass/ No Credit (P/NC) option to problematic classes. This meant that at the end of a semester, a student’s transcript would read ‘pass’ or ‘no credit’ instead of a letter grade for the class. No matter what the passing grade was, it would not be accumulated into the student’s grade point average.
Undergraduate Student Government implemented a policy last semester that will change the P/NC policy into a Grade, Pass, No Credit (G/P/NC) option. The G/P/NC modification is similar to the original policy in that students can continue to take the classes they signed up for, but they would have until the ninth week of classes to select a certain letter grade threshold on SOLAR if they feel that the class is too much of a challenge or will negatively impact their GPA.
This means that if students dip below the grade they have selected but still pass the course, they will get a ‘pass’ on their transcript. If the grade is above or equivalent to what the threshold is set to, the grade will be displayed as is and will be factored into a student’s GPA. If one fails the class, the course will be marked as NC, or no credit.
“The reason it was really developed was so that students wouldn’t be afraid to try a new class,” said Richard J. Gatteau, assistant provost for academic and transfer advising services. “[Students] were concerned they wouldn’t do well in the grade and they wouldn’t even want to take it, so that was an incentive developed by the faculty.”
John Sadler, a freshman with no declared major, said he thinks the new system should only be used for Diversified Education Curriculum (D.E.C.) courses.
“I think if it’s a class you are taking just for credit and you are using the G/P/NC option, it’s a good safety net,” Sadler said. “But if it is a class you are taking for your major, I think it’s a cheat because it is a major requirement and you should be putting your best effort into it.”
Deborah Machalow, USG’s former executive vice president, proposed the new grading policy last fall. The idea, she said, came from the Non-Recording Option at Dartmouth University.
Christina Chahalis, a senior biology major, said the new policy has more advantages than disadvantages.
“Stony Brook is a hard school and sometimes you don’t realize how hard the classes are actually going to be. So in that respect, it’s a great option instead of just dropping the class,” Chahalis said. “It does seem, though, like you’re coping out a little bit by saying you passed it and not wanting to show the grade.”
Gatteau, who has been involved with USG for 10 years, said he “was really proud to finally see a student propose something.”
Although the changes to the policy were completed last spring, the university decided to wait until this fall to fully enact them in an attempt to avoid confusion among the students.
Gatteau said he feels that since at least a thousand students were already using the original P/NC policy each term, even more will begin taking advantage of it now.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if almost every student chooses his or her classes like that,” Gatteau said. “There is so much more incentive to it now, because you still have the chance to get the grade on your record.”
There are still certain rules and regulations that must be taken into consideration when deciding if the G/P/NC alternative is the best option. First, students can only use G/P/NC for one class each semester regardless of how many credits they are taking. Students do, however, have the option to switch which class they are applying it to up until Oct. 26.
In addition, this grading option cannot be used on developmental courses and classes that use grading rubrics like “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” or ABC/U. Certain departments such as the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Journalism have strict restrictions about using G/P/NC to satisfy major and minor requirements. More information about such restrictions can be found under the rules and regulations tab on the online Undergraduate Bulletin.
“Some people thought it was too much of a safety net. I personally think it’s a great option,” Adil Hussain, a junior political science and pre-nursing major, said. Hussain was also part of USG last year when the policy was passed. “Especially, because it gives student the mindset ‘Oh wow, I can really earn this grade’ and if they get it, they get the grade, but if they don’t they can still receive the credit. I think it’s definitely a positive thing.”