Students have raised concern over LSU's stance against a pass/no credit grading system for the Fall 2020 semester. Many feel that due to this year's challenges, measures should be taken to help students with their academic standing.
A pass/no credit option allows a P or NC to be reflected on a student's final transcript, rather than a +/- letter grade. Grades A+ to C- are designated as a P and students receive full credit for the course. Grades D+ to F are designated as NC and do not count towards the student's college credits.
A P/NC grade does not impact a student's GPA, but they cannot qualify for the president's list or the dean's list if the option is chosen for one or more courses.
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Matthew Lee said that LSU Student Government did not officially bring a P/NC bill to the table in their discussions, but asked for an extension of the withdrawal date.
"Nobody actually asked for it. They asked to move the withdrawal date to the end of the semester, which is what's happening," Lee said.
Engineering senior Joshua Nguyen, who serves as liaison for Student Government and Academic Affairs, said that he discussed the option with Provost Stacia Haynie, but they agreed the cons outweighed the benefits and the P/NC system should not be implemented for a second semester.
Nguyen explained that the main reason LSU has not implemented the P/NC option is because no other SEC peer institutions have.
"In order to be consistent, we have to follow peer institution guidelines," Nguyen said. "As of now, no peer institution has integrated pass/no credit."
Nguyen said that another reason Academic Affairs decided against implementing the P/NC system is because it hurts students in the long run. Graduate schools across the country, including LSU, look down on a transcript where students chose a P or NC grade. This is particularly true if the class was related to their field of interest. Similarly, if a student is applying for a job fresh out of college and the business looks at their class transcript, it could negatively impact their chances of being hired.
"It's a short term bandage for a long term wound," Nguyen said.
Nguyen said that students may improve their GPA for one semester, but the future damage a P or NC mark could do is much greater.
Many students took to Twitter to voice their concern with the lack of a P/NC system for this semester.
please... give us the option of P/NC ... https://t.co/ShRuhblycy— melissa kim! (@officialmelkim) November 20, 2020
My professor said “In all my years of undergrad and graduate school, I have never witnessed or experienced this level of burnout for students or professors.” But LSU can’t implement Pass/Fail....— 🌻Kee🌻 (@heyits_kee) November 24, 2020
In early October, LSU graduate student Da'Jour Braxton created an online petition in favor of a P/NC system. Since then it has amassed over 4,200 signatures and the number continues to rise.
"As a student who studies both higher education administration and counselor's education, I naturally began this campaign at LSU out of concern for students' health and future ambitions," Braxton said. "I hope LSU begins to take notes on how other schools [like] ULL, SU, MIT and others are supporting their students during this difficult time."
Students listed numerous reasons for signing the change.org petition such as the stress of COVID-19 and the six hurricanes that have hit Louisiana, a lack of breaks throughout the semester paired with additional Saturday make-up days, professors assigning extra coursework and the difficulties of adapting to online learning, in addition to the general toll this year has taken on many student's mental health.
"LSU made a promise that this semester's quality of education would not diminish. However I myself, as well as many others, have dealt with unorganized professors, bad exam procedures and unprecedented [situations] from all facets of life," one commenter said. "We don't need this policy because we are lazy – we need this policy because we worked hard and have yet to see that level of effort from our [professors]. We deserve this policy for a situation out of our control."
Braxton pointed out that although LSU peer institutions may not currently have a P/NC system, it's in the works at other major universities. Student body presidents in the Association of Big Ten Students (ABTS) signed a joint letter in favor of a pass/no credit system on Nov. 2.
ABTS includes Michigan State, University of Illinois, University of Indiana, University of Minnesota, Purdue University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, Northwestern University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rutgers, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Ohio State University and Pennsylvania State University. The letter was signed by everyone except the University of Indiana.
"As of the time of this statement's release, hundreds of thousands of students within the Big Ten Conference are crushed beneath the persistent weight of the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, a national social justice movement and a particularly polarizing election season among the plethora of other stressors that have plagued 2020," the letter read. "We are academically, mentally, financially, and physically fatigued by circumstances that have escaped our control since going remote in the Spring semester of 2020. As Big Ten Student Body representatives of over 500,000 students, we are collectively calling on our institutions to implement a comprehensive P/F or S/NS policy for the Fall 2020 semester that prioritizes the needs of students at each of our respective institutions."
Nguyen made clear that LSU Student Government and Academic Affairs are not denying the difficulty of this semester and the situations students have faced.
"It's very tough seeing it from one side of the story, saying 'Why can't we have xyz,' but you have to take into account a lot of other things," Nguyen said.
Recently another Pass/No Credit petition has surfaced, started by LSU student Kiera Miller. It currently has just over 800 signees but is quickly gaining ground.
Braxton said that the concerns students have listed on these petitions and through social media need to be adequately addressed by LSU and the extension of the withdrawal date is not enough.
"Institutions of higher education remind us that education is always evolving, it only makes sense that their policies and procedures evolve as well," Braxton said.