Faculty Senate approves optional credit/no credit grading system for entirety of academic year

July 30, 2020, 9:51 p.m.

All courses for the upcoming academic year that are offered with a letter grading basis must also include an optional credit/no credit (CR/NC) grading basis. 

“During the next academic year … no course would be taught only with a letter grade basis,” said Graduate School of Education professor Adam Banks, co-chair of the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policy (C-USP), who supported the measure before it was approved by the Faculty Senate at its meeting on Thursday. According to Banks, classes that are already graded on a satisfactory/no credit basis are not affected by this policy.

The Senate also passed measures that ensure that courses taken with a credit or satisfactory grading basis during the 2020-21 academic year do not count toward the 36-unit CR/NC maximum that a student can apply toward their degree (the maximum is 27 units for transfer students). 

The Senate also urged deans, departments and programs to adopt similar exemptions or to change program requirements to account for the change in grading policy. Courses taken with such a grading basis can also be applied toward general education requirements — such as WAYS, Thinking Matters and PWR — pending the approval of their respective boards. While the Graduate School of Business, School of Law and School of Medicine M.D program are exempt, they also have the ability to opt-in to this new grading policy. 

In a letter to the Faculty Senate, the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) endorsed both a universal satisfactory/no credit (S/NC) grading basis, which faculty adopted for spring quarter, and an optional credit/no credit grading basis. Although results from an ASSU survey suggest that universal S/NC would result in the highest enrollment among students facing the greatest inequity, only the optional credit/no credit grading basis was included in Faculty Senate legislation, which was drafted by C-USP and the Committee on Graduate Studies (CGS).

ASSU Acting President Vianna Vo ’21 and  ASSU Undergraduate Senator Jonathan Lipman ’21 presented the survey results before the Faculty Senate, arguing that an optional credit/no credit grading basis is more equitable, better adjusted to the online learning environment and can accommodate any uncertainty in the academic year.

“We believe we need a grading policy that’s going to be able to weather this turbulence,” Lipman said. “I suspect no one wants to be having another discussion to consider emergency grading halfway during fall quarter.”

Vo shared testimonies from students that demonstrate a variety of barriers to learning in the upcoming quarter, including tense family situations, time zone differences, risk of contracting COVID-19 and the need for students to support themselves and their families.

The Senate also discussed, but did not approve, changing the deadline by which students can change their grading basis in a course from the end of the eighth week of the quarter to the end of the tenth week of the quarter. 

Currently, students are allowed to request a change in grading basis after the eighth week deadline only if their situation includes “compelling extenuating factors, outside the student’s control, and beyond this typical student experience,” according to Randall Williams, associate dean of academic advising operations. 

Jessica Muehlberg, associate registrar of curriculum management & scheduling, said that such a change would make it difficult for instructors to enter grades since “no grading roster will be available” to faculty until after the deadline, and “it will also impact us getting grades for graduating students.”

Also at the meeting, Provost Persis Drell announced that on Monday the University will publish a draft of a new “faculty discipline process for cases involving sexual harassment and sexual assault,” in order to comply with new Title IX regulations from the Department of Education. Faculty will have four days to provide input and an updated pilot policy will be issued on Aug. 14. 

Contact Michael Espinosa at mesp2021 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

This article has been updated to clarify that the legislation brought before the Faculty Senate on Thursday was developed by C-USP and CGS.

Michael Espinosa '22 is majoring in international relations. He's the head of The Daily's social media team, and editor for the University beat and also occasionally writes for sports, arts, and The Grind. He's the biggest Taylor Swift fan at Stanford and the proudest New Yorker you will ever meet. Contact him at mespinosa 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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