Gonzaga University announced Wednesday that it would be amending the undergraduate pass/fail (P/F) policy due to the unprecedented ramifications of the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

“Students will have until May 21 to declare the P/F grade option,” the email said. “This time extension will allow students to know their Spring 2020 final grade to inform their decision. No late fees will be assessed.”

P/F grades do not fulfill credits for core, majors, minors or concentrations and can only be used on elective credits to reach the required credit total for graduation.

Along with the P/F decision students can also now wait until May 21 to withdraw from a course.

“The University is aware of, and has received, a petition from a group of undergraduate students requesting that, given the extraordinary challenges catalyzed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the University move from a system of assigning letter grades to assigning Pass/Fail grades as an option for courses for the Spring 2020 semester,” said Deena González, provost and senior vice president of GU, in an email to all undergraduate students and faculty. 

This decision came after the creation of a petition on change.org started by Tori Irons, a junior accounting major at GU. The petition had almost 875 signatures Thursday with a goal of 1,000.

“I know for me I rely a lot on face to face communication and going to class even and that’s what motivates me to do well in school is having those connections with people,” Irons said. “Listening to what other people have said, even if they are living around Gonzaga or in the Logan [Neighborhood] being in one place makes you feel trapped and I feel like that’s not a good learning environment. So, I thought to give us some grace during this period where there is a lot of unknowns and a lot of transitions is to take the stress off academics a little bit and focus on doing the best we can.”

Irons said that she was inspired by decisions made by Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Georgetown to create her petition and work towards making a pass/fail option that applies to all courses not just electives.

“I’m not doing this because it helps me,” Irons said. “I’m doing it because there’s probably other people in difficult positions who are going to benefit even more from having a pass/fail option that still counts towards their degree though. So, it was a victory but there still needs to be work done on it.”

The email sent to all students noted that the sudden mid-semester shift over to “distance-learning” along with other complications is challenging and has impacted students significantly.

“We knew that between the Spring Break, with the directive from the Governor's office to stay home and practice social distancing, and the return of students to their homes, the circumstances warranted a reconsideration of the current policy with a goal of alleviating student concern about remote/distance education,” González said in an email to The Gonzaga Bulletin.

The email to all students encouraged all students to be familiar with the policy before making a decision to declare a P/F. 

Students with a “C” or higher will receive a pass and those with lower grades will receive a fail. These grades will not be calculated into a student’s grade point average.

According to item H.6 of this policy, “no more than five Pass/Fail courses may count toward a degree, and no more than two may be taken in any one department.”

“To those students who are juniors and seniors and are writing that they are taking zero electives this semester, and that this temporary change in the policy will not help them, I suggest discussion with an adviser to see if there are modifications in a minor, or  perhaps electives into the next year, that might help balance a semester's grades achieved under circumstances that were not originally imagined, but where the subject matter or course content continues to cover material the expert, the Professor, has deemed important,” González said.

The email cautioned students that a P/F grade could have long term effects and that students should take into consideration how it may impact them.

When making this decision students will have to fill out a form available through the Registrar’s Office which will be passes onto the dean’s office of the student’s respective school.

“The dean’s office will facilitate the request process in consideration of the student’s circumstances,” González said. “This may necessitate a conversation with the student.”

This decision was made because students reached out and asked for it however, many are still not satisfied with the solution presented by the university.

“I know that not everyone will be pleased with such a policy change,” González said. “We consulted many, including faculty, faculty senators, deans and senior leaders. Students and their parents wrote to us.  We hope the temporarily-amended P/F policy of spring semester, 2020 alleviates the challenge of a new learning environment for many undergraduates, but continues to allow you to focus on studying, interpreting, creating, and reflecting, characteristics of a Gonzaga education.”

Riley Utley is the head news editor. Follow her on Twitter: @rileyutley.

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