Due to COVID-19 pandemic, Mason will allow students to opt for credit/no credit options


In an email to the Mason community on Nov. 5, Provost and Executive Vice President Mark Ginsberg announced that Mason will allow for alternative grading options for the fall semester due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Ginsberg explained in the email that this measure is being put in place to “ensure that all students have the opportunity for success this semester.”

In October, a petition that received over 4,000 signatures called for the implementation of a pass/fail grading system for the fall semester. The petition explained that due to the ongoing pandemic and changes to courses, pass/fail grading should be an option. In the summary of the petition, the creator, Katie Smith, wrote that there were many reasons to allow students to opt for credit/no credit, including concerns about professors’ ability to evaluate students’ performance and students’ ability to study effectively while off-campus. 

The alternative grading plan is similar to what was put in place during the spring 2020 semester after all courses were moved online. Students will have the opportunity to choose if they receive a letter grade or credit/no credit for a course. Students will be able to decide on an individual and course-by-course basis which classes they would like to receive a letter grade in, and which they would like to apply the alternative grading plan to, if any.

The grades that will appear on transcripts are XS (extraordinary circumstances-satisfactory), when a student earns a C or higher and chooses to change their grade to credit, XP (extraordinary circumstances-pass), when a student earns credit in the course but does not meet the minimum grade threshold to apply the course to requirements with a minimum grade requirement, or a C- or a D, and XN (extraordinary circumstances-no credit), where the student does not earn credit in the course. The alternative grading mode carries no quality points, so GPA will not be affected if one makes these changes.

Many other colleges granted flexible grading options for the fall 2020 semester. In October, JMU and UVA, among other Virginia universities, announced that they would allow students to change a standard grade in a class to credit/no credit. 

Graduate student Heather Prince explained that the decision was the right one, as COVID-19 has affected students in different ways.

“I’ve seen a lot of hate about it where people say like, ‘oh students are going to just stop doing work and take the easy way’ and that’s not true,” Prince said. “Giving the option for P/F makes it fairer to everyone who’s lost their job, home, had to move, lost family, had family lose their jobs, etc. because of COVID and gives them the opportunity to at least be able to finish their degree.”