Stony Brook University has extended its Graded/Pass/No Credit (G/P/NC) deadline from Oct. 23 to Nov. 6, according to an email on Oct. 19 by Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Fotis Sotiropoulos.
The change comes “in response to recent requests to expand the Pass/No Credit policy for Fall 2020,” according to the email. More than 2,000 have signed a petition to reinstate last spring’s Pass/No Credit (P/NC) option. The petition argues that students are “grappling with the same concerns over their academics as they were in Spring 2020, when the P/NC policy was implemented.”
“With the devastating effects of COVID-19 persisting across the globe, we understand the challenges that this semester brings for many of our students,” Sotiropoulos wrote. “We are committed to providing you with the support you need during these extenuating circumstances, while still ensuring you progress toward earning valuable degrees.”
G/P/NC is a grading option that allows students to “select a threshold letter grade as the minimum acceptable grade” for one of their courses. If the threshold is met, the grade is reported on their transcript. If the grade is lower than the set threshold but above an F, the student would earn a P that counts for credits without affecting their GPA. Earning a P does not fulfill DEC, SBC or major and minor requirements. If the student failed the course, the course would give a grade of N/C or no credit and would not affect their GPA.
The P/NC grading system is a similar option that could be used for multiple classes and counts grades over a C as passing, allowing students to meet their graduation requirements and avoid potentially lowering their GPA. It was implemented last spring to help students adapt to online classes. The deadline for students to institute the P/NC last semester was available until two weeks after finals.
The email from Sotiropoulos said that the administration is “weighing possible options that will balance flexibility with academic excellence and student success” and that a final decision on the policy will be decided in the coming weeks.
Sophia Zhukovsky, a junior political science and environmental humanities major, is the creator of the petition. She said students need the option of the P/NC policy because of the unusual learning circumstances of the semester.
“I am arguing that our learning structure has not returned to normal, and many students are still struggling greatly to adjust, and thus the P/NC policy should be applied to our fall semester,” she wrote on the petition. “This would provide greater peace of mind to students and allow for more comfortable adaptation to our new learning arrangements.”
In an call with The Statesman on Oct. 18, hours after Sotiropoulos’s email, Zhukovsky said she is happy that the university responded to students concerns and are potentially considering implementing the policy.
“I am really encouraged by the news,” she said. “I know there is maybe a certain degree of skepticism sometimes to these sorts of things but I do feel as if they’re listening and they are hearing what students have to say.”
Zhuhovsky believes students need the P/NC option because they may still be struggling with external factors that can hinder their academic performance, like technological issues, anxieties brought on by the pandemic and less concrete class schedules.
“Yes, we’ve had time to theoretically adjust, but that doesn’t make it any easier to do so,” Zhuhovsky said. “A lot of classes are being taught online for the first time ever — and that’s been difficult on both students and professors. A lot of students are really struggling. And it’s true that not everybody needs this policy, but I do think that having the option is what a lot of students need.”
Cody Crouse, a junior mathematics major, said that pandemic has put stress on his academics and the P/NC or other supplementary grading policy would help alleviate some of that pressure. He is also frustrated that some of his professors have not fully adapted to online learning and communication, which he said is hindering progress in one of his classes.
“I signed because I am concerned about the academic wellbeing of me and my fellow Stony Brook Seawolves,” he wrote in an email to The Statesman. “We currently live in unprecedented times with the current pandemic and have much more of a burden placed on us to stay on top of our work than we usually have. While college is undeniably a lot of work, which is fair and to be expected, we were not expecting this pandemic to hit us.”
Junior psychology and political science major Erin Byers helped Zhuhovsky draft the petition. She wrote in an email to The Statesman that students like her are struggling to cope with factors they did not anticipate when they entered the university, like managing their schedules with asynchronous courses and taking lectures in their bedrooms.
“This petition is an ask for some recognition from SBU administration that classes are in no way back to normal this fall just because some students are back on campus,” Byers wrote. “Our struggles are the same, if not worse than they were in the spring. We are now navigating a world that makes it hard to prioritize, compartmentalize and delegate our work appropriately. This small change in policy would alleviate a bit of the stress we are facing as young adults in a world with forces out of our control that can feel more and more overwhelming by the day.”