Students Struggle As UC Irvine Curtails Pass/No Pass Grading Options
March 6, 2021 | Written by Yasmin Miranda
Associated Students of the University of California, Irvine released a petition regarding UC Irvine’s pass/no pass policies which restricted the pass/no pass deadline to week 6.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started almost a year ago and UCI students began online schooling, one of the cushions they were awarded were the revised pass/no pass guidelines. These new rules granted students the opportunity to change their grading option up until the Friday of week 10. This extension of the pass/no pass deadline allowed them to take any classes—including those counting towards school requirements and major requirements—for a pass/no pass mark instead of a letter grade. UCI was not the only school that allowed this change, as most University of California institutions adopted the measure. Of course, there were some exceptions such as UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara.
This measure was set to help students who were having a hard time adjusting to the new online schooling format and for those who were dealing with hardships presented by the COVID-19 pandemic with University of California President Janet Napolitano supporting the measure, “the university’s flexibility at this crucial time will ensure prospective students aiming for UC get a full and fair shot— no matter their current challenges.”
More specifically at UCI, some departments such as engineering still required courses to be taken for a letter grade, but for the most part students were given flexibility with their grades. Many students expressed gratitude for this leniency that the university was offering during such difficult times.
However, these measures have been rolled back significantly as online schooling has progressed into the new school year. By the time winter 2021 quarter has started some of the pass/no pass flexibilities began to be revoked.
This is when ASUCI’s COVID-19 Pass/No Pass and Academic Accommodation Special Committee released their petition. The petition outlined the differences between the pass/no pass policy between Spring and Fall 2020 versus Winter 2021.
For instance, students now needed to request a letter grade change by the end of week 6 and school/major requirements needed to be taken for a letter grade and would not count towards graduation requirements if taken for a pass/no pass grade. This came to a shock to many students who were still facing adversities caused by the ongoing pandemic.
The aim of the petition was to engage with students to see how the previous pass/no pass policy had been supported, not supported, and perceived by students.
The petition was then used to gauge how important these policies were to students’ academic well-being. As reported by ATV News, Chair and founder of this committee, Steven Dauglash, states that the committee was needed because students were being “left behind” and emphasized the importance of the pass/no pass accommodation, “this isn’t for the average student, this is for those who need to take the pass/no pass.” This includes students who are working, have had family emergencies or losses due to COVID-19, and other special circumstances. Vice Chair, Chirag Shah added that what the special committee wants from UCI is “uniformity in policy and in understanding” across all of its schools. ASUCI Senator Steven Gong reflected on UCI’s pass no pass policy calling it “one of the worst pass/no pass or academic accommodation among all the UC’s” given other UC’s enacting and holding policies that allowed students to take any class, including those required for their major or school pass/no pass, and having a flexible system in which students could change those options up to week 10 without the Dean’s approval, something that most UCI schools require. He argued that UCI needs a systemic policy for all schools, rather than relying on a case by case basis.
Arguably, their efforts have been somewhat successful so far as some UCI department have begun sending emails in support of these changes, including the following:
UCI School of Social Ecology
UCI School of Humanities
Although the deadline was extended from week 6 to week 10, most students will still find themselves needing to keep the letter grade option due to major requirements not being included in the pass/no pass option.
ASUCI continues to ask for students to share their experiences with academics and COVID-19 with the special committee as they continue to fight for students.