Administration expands S/U grading policy in response to online courses

Last week, the Augustana administration announced a change to the S/U grading policy for this semester that will give students more options as they navigate their newly online courses.

Last week in an email to students, Provost and Executive Vice President Colin Irvine said the Curriculum Council had approved a new S/U grading policy for the Spring 2020 semester, which allows students to S/U as many classes as they want to for this semester. 

Before this change, students could only S/U two courses while at Augustana.

This change includes all courses, including general education courses, major requirements and honors classes. The one exception is nursing classes, which still don’t allow S/U grading.

S/U grading means that a student will either receive a satisfactory (S) or unsatisfactory (U) grade for their class, instead of the usual letter grade. A satisfactory is determined to be a C- or above, while anything below is unsatisfactory. 

This is different from a pass/fail option, which only requires a D- to pass. Most schools don’t have an option for pass/fail grading available, while many already have options for S/U grading.

According to Joni Krueger, the registrar and a non-voting member of the Curriculum Council, Augustana decided upon the change due to the switch to online classes.

“I knew that [online classes] would be a strain on students and faculty and wanted to come up with options that would ease the stress and anxiety for both groups,” Krueger said.

Junior Cole Tessendorf, the chair of the ASA Curriculum Committee and a student member of the Curriculum Council, voiced his approval of the decision following its announcement.

“In the midst of transitioning to online classes, moving away from campus and separating from classmates and friends, this policy gives students a chance to breathe,” Tessendorf said.

Across the country in recent weeks, many schools have already announced similar plans regarding S/U grading. In addition, Augustana students had created a petition with the goal of getting Augustana to follow suit of other schools.

The petition was posted on last week by freshman Courtney Chrystal. As an ASA senator, she wanted to see how the student body felt about a change to the current S/U policy.

“This petition was in no way a protest, but rather a way to quantify the need and desire for students to S/U classes,” Chrystal said.

By the time the petition, which garnered over 700 supporters, reached the ears of administration, the Curriculum Council was already considering a change to the policy. Once they saw the students’ opinions, the council held an emergency meeting where the new policy passed unanimously.

According to Tessendorf, concerns were raised during the meeting that the new policy would affect students in accredited programs, as well as students that plan on going to graduate school. Choosing to S/U courses in those cases poses a risk, as some accreditation programs or graduate schools require letter grades.

As a way to prevent that from happening, in the email he sent out, Irvine said that students should meet with their adviser before deciding to S/U courses.

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