Business School to implement Pass/No Record grading

Friday, March 20, 2020 - 3:40pm

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The Ross School of Business will give students the option to take their classes Pass/No Record for the remainder of the Winter semester, Dean Scott DeRue announced at a BBA virtual town hall meeting on Friday afternoon. 

This comes after University President Mark Schlissel announced last week all classes would be moved online for the rest of the semester in response to an outbreak of coronavirus in the state. University students then started a petition for all classes at the University of Michigan to offer a Pass/Fail grading option, which had more than 5,000 signatures as of Friday.

While colleges and universities across the country have made classes Pass/Fail, the University has not yet issued an official decision, leaving students uncertain about what their grades for the semester will look like.

DeRue said the Business School will be using a Pass/No Record system, which means a failed class will not count towards a student’s GPA and be listed as no record.

“It’s not Pass/Fail, but basically Pass/No Record, which is the equivalent to Pass/Fail, but if you were to, unfortunately, fail, then instead of fail, it shows up as no record,” DeRue said. “Which essentially means it doesn’t show up on your transcript. It shows up, but it shows up as no record and it doesn’t feed into any GPA or anything like that.”

Business students will be given the option to unmask their grades if they want them to factor into their GPA. Students will be able to decide in May or June whether they can unmask their grades or not, with an estimated cutoff date of July 1.

“The impact on your GPA is important for many of you, and with that, we will roll out the option for you to ‘unmask’ your grade,” DeRue said. “So the default will be Pass/No Record, which is equivalent to Pass/Fail. But if you want your grade to figure into your GPA, you’ll have that option.” 

While Business School classes are typically graded on a curve that limits the percentage of students who receive an A, the curve will be relaxed for the Winter semester. 

“One is relaxing a little bit of the distribution because we recognize that there are many factors beyond your motivation or your ability that could come into your grade in the class,” DeRue said. “We want to relax the distribution a little bit, but we’re also going to give the equivalent of that Pass/Fail that many of you have asked for, but with the option of getting your actual grade and having it count if you want.”

DeRue said he recognizes the factors that put students at a disadvantage as members of the University community grapple with public health measures designed to prevent the spread of the virus. Among the steps taken to promote social distancing include the cancellation of large gatherings and the shut down of in-person service at bars and restaurants. Students in residence halls have also been urged to leave campus unless they have no other options for housing.

Business freshman Eve Taylor told The Daily she was in favor of the policy.

“I feel like it gives students a fair amount of choices during this time to decide where they stand mentally and if they’re capable or not to keep up with their grades,” Taylor said. “I think this time is causing a lot of people stress and putting students in unequal situations where they may not be able to focus or complete school in the same way that they would have on campus. This way, students can either take advantage of this time and work like crazy, but if they can’t and have other strenuous circumstances, they won’t be punished for it.”

Business freshman Shan Shan Chen also supported the change in grading. However, she noted that there was a disparity between older and younger BBAs in who would gain the most from the policy.

“I am actually a little upset with it because I am only a freshman right now and the courses I am taking at Ross are extremely easy,” Chen said. “ … However, I feel that it is extremely beneficial for upperclassmen in more difficult courses, especially the seniors who had to let their last year go early and may already be struggling with that. I am hoping this policy will apply to LSA courses as well because I am actually struggling more in LSA courses — economics, for example. In general, I think this policy is helpful during this stressful time.”

Other schools are also considering implementing Pass/No Record grading. In an email to Ford School of Public Policy students on Thursday, Paula Lantz, associate dean for academic affairs, said various deans were considering the merits of the system.

“Within this proposal, another element is whether or not a student could petition to have a Pass grade ‘unmasked’ or converted to a letter grade for a limited set of specific reasons (e.g., need to raise GPA to get off of probation, need a grade in a course for a fellowship situation, need a grade in specific courses for PhD applications, etc.),” Lantz wrote. “If part of the grading policy for this term, converting a Pass to a letter grade would be done on a very limited basis under special circumstances.”

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in an email Thursday there was not yet a University-wide decision on grading.

“The Office of the Provost is carefully exploring this suggestion,” Fitzgerald wrote. “There has been no decision.”

Daily Staff Reporter Jasmin Lee can be reached at itsshlee@umich.edu.