The Fight for the Pass/Fail/No Credit Option

SGA’s Statement, The Provost’s Reasoning, and Student Thoughts

The+SGA+letter+that+was+posted+to+their+Instagram+page+on+December+17.+

The SGA letter that was posted to their Instagram page on December 17.

Haresh Oudhnarine and Maryam Pervaiz

As students push through their finals at the end of an unprecedented semester, the Pass/Fail/No Credit option was not offered by the NJCU administration. However, in Spring 2020, the grading option was available as a way to assist students with the new learning environment.

The Student Government Association (SGA) posted a letter to their Instagram on the late evening of Thursday, December 17th, revealing that the NJCU Provost and Administration will not offer a Pass/Fail/No Credit option for the Fall 2020 semester. SGA removed the post the day after.

The Gothic Times attempted to reach SGA for further comment, however, this effort was unsuccessful.

The letter began, “It is with great sadness that we, the Student Government Association have learned that the Provost and NJCU administration will not be doing a Pass/Fail/No Credit for our students this semester.”

The letter also explained that the Provost did not feel enough students advocated for having the grading option from spring and that SGA did not prioritize the issue to them. SGA confirmed at the end of their letter that they will continue to advocate for the Pass/Fail/No Credit option and that their survey will be released. A survey about the grading option was never released.

Provost Dr. Tamara Jhashi responded to why the grading option was not offered this semester. She said, “NJCU is not offering the grading option this semester because of the following reasons: the extended ‘W’ option was granted as a way to assist students who may have been struggling in one or more classes because of the changed circumstances with the pandemic this fall. There is essentially no difference between a ‘W’ and ‘NC’ in practical terms, but on a transcript, future employers, internship directors, graduate school admissions, etc. may have far greater negative outcomes. Thus, this option was designed to protect a student moving forward.”

Jhashi continued, “Moreover, the integrity of the grading system is what the Office of Academic Affairs is charged to protect – the value of an NJCU degree is dependent on the integrity of the grading system and the academic rigor of our programs. Instructors have flexibility in working with students who may have needs (medical or other hardship) in which they would benefit from an ‘Incomplete.’ That is always an option, as is a medical withdrawal.”

There is essentially no difference between a ‘W’ and ‘NC’ in practical terms, but on a transcript, future employers, internship directors, graduate school admissions, etc. may have far greater negative outcomes. Thus, this option was designed to protect a student moving forward.”

— Provost Tamara Jhashi

In early December, it was announced that the final withdrawal date for a 0 percent refund was extended to December 8 from its original November 2 date. Notably, withdrawal from a course results in a permanent “W” on a student’s academic transcript.

Acting Dean of Students and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, Jodi Bailey, said, “Student Affairs doesn’t oversee any academic policies for the institution, this is strictly under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Provost. Our division does, however, support the decisions that the Provost has made. We also support her decision the week after Thanksgiving to extend the W process, thus allowing students to withdraw from classes if there was an academic issue.”

Bailey added, “In speaking with the Student Government about this issue earlier this semester, I encouraged them to work with the University to understand why there is a request for the pass/fail option. It is essential to understand what services need to be enhanced or created to help our students succeed in the classroom.”

In speaking with the Student Government about this issue earlier this semester, I encouraged them to work with the University to understand why there is a request for the pass/fail option.”

— Jodi Bailey

Responding to how NJCU will be transparent in the future, Jhashi said, “NJCU is and remains transparent. Student Affairs works very closely with students regarding the needs for student supports and will continue to do so in the Spring term. Academic Affairs and Student Affairs are close partners in providing students with those supports. A survey is currently being designed for students to assess those needs and we will do our utmost in addressing them.”

Students expressed their concerns and thoughts on the grading option and the letter.

Giovania Jones, a junior majoring in Psychology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies, said, “The students are experiencing a lot right now. Many students are taking multiple jobs, have a hectic environment, might not have the tools to efficiently complete the semester, so it is really crucial that our students are able to have the P/F.”

Jones continued, “I feel that students expressed a lot of concerns [this semester]. We were pushed to the back burner and our concerns were not being acknowledged during this semester which is very frustrating.”

Priscilla Hatchett, an Honors sophomore, described a difficult semester. She said, “I was working and trying to keep up with all my coursework. I feel like online learning was very difficult because my professors had no clue how to use the online learning platform. I experienced two professors who did not even bother to host a class and expected the students to pass. It was a lot.”

Hatchett further explained why the administration should offer the requested grading option, “I am attending NJCU through the Honors program and to be very frank, I need to keep my grades and GPA up in order to continue attending the university… In addition to that fact, it has been rough for most of us, we are living in a global crisis, our lives have fallen apart and as we begin to pick up the pieces, we need as much help as we can get from the university.”

In addition to that fact, it has been rough for most of us, we are living in a global crisis, our lives have fallen apart and as we begin to pick up the pieces, we need as much help as we can get from the university.”

— Priscilla Hatchett

DiVante’ Dickens, a Psychology major said, “We are not just asking for a P/F option to pass everyone because it was a hard semester but to show students that the administration can support its population and that they understand our circumstances in 2020. For the Senate to approve the motion of a P/F option at the senate meeting and now deny the option with SGA in their back pocket is just a slap in the face for the students.”

In SGA’s letter, it was said that they advocated for the grading option in the November Senate meeting. On November 23, they announced on their Instagram page that they would be releasing a survey to the student body to hear their thoughts on the grading option for the semester.

On December 22nd, NJCU Communications sent out an email with an “End of Semester Survey” that was created by SGA and the Office for Institutional Effectiveness. It is stated in the email that the survey is not related to the Pass/Fail/No Credit grading option.

Hatchet, the Honors student, said, “SGA’s letter did not at all feel sincere. It felt like they were saying, ‘we tried’ with a shoulder shrug.”

Ebrahim Mostafa, a junior Entrepreneurship major, agreed that the pass/no credit option would be beneficial to students. Describing how his semester went, he said, “I think it would be appropriate if the professors make a new method into developing ways to make new ways to teach and not give much work to us. Some of us are still busy and have much to do, to feed families.”

December Senate Meeting

On December 7th, the NJCU Senate hosted a meeting to approve motions that were introduced at prior meetings. Although the Pass/Fail/No Credit option was not on the agenda, students brought up the concern midway and during the “New Business” portion of the meeting. The motion was then approved at the meeting, but it was apparent that the grading option was not yet official. The Senate members continued to discuss the idea of it afterward.

Alan Tiburcio, a junior political science major asked the Senate to consider reimplementing the grading option from the spring semester. He advocated that 39 other prominent universities in the nation such as Harvard, Yale, and the University of California that had all decided to give their students a similar option.

Tiburcio said, “Many other students have had terrible situations that they’ve had to deal with and this would just give us peace of mind instead of just providing us the opportunity to withdraw from a class we already paid for.”

Thyquel Halley, a sophomore and the student representative for the Board of Trustees said, “I want to make sure that the university clearly communicates what it means when they are opting for the pass/no credit option. Does it affect credits? Does it affect your GPA? Does it affect your transcripts and when you are going to apply to graduate schools?… I’m all for it as long as we can commit to properly communicate what it means to our students.”

Senior Mauricio Berrios said, “My take on the pass/no credit option is that it would be very helpful to a lot of students like myself. Right now I am doing counseling with the school because I feel this pandemic has not only affected me but several students, it has affected our mental health, it has affected our academic motivation.”

Berrios added, “Before the pandemic, I was excelling academically, but last semester when everything happened, I sort of had a dip personally. I hope that the senate does recognize this motion and does consider the pass/no credit option.”

All students are definitely struggling but even the students who are known to excel academically, might not be able to learn in this situation very well.”

— Alexandra Mack

Alexandra Mack, an Honors student emphasized that students’ scholarships could be impacted. She said, “Even if we had wanted to take this semester off because we physically know that we can’t do well learning online, we’re unable to because we know that scholarships are only going to last a certain amount of time. All students are definitely struggling but even the students who are known to excel academically, might not be able to learn in this situation very well. We’re completely cut off from any opportunity to say ‘I have to take this semester off, I can’t do it’ so this pass/fail would just give them an extra assurance knowing that their GPA isn’t going to drop and they’re not going to be dropped from their programs.”

Many students discussed the administration’s decision on the grading option and SGA’s role on an NJCU Students Instagram live.