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PSU implements pass, fail grades

Due to changes in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pittsburg State University has announced that students can now choose to take a pass or fail grade in lieu of a letter grade.  

According to Howard Smith, PSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, the president’s council made the final decision to implement pass or fails grades. However, the actual resolutions came from the Student Government Association, the faculty senate and the graduate council.  

“So, those (resolutions) all came forward and they all paralleled each other well,” Smith said. “But the president’s council made the final authority to allow for those modifications just this spring.”  

Smith is a leader on the Critical Incident Response Team which meets daily to discuss changes and decision-making. Discussions such as the one to allow pass or fail grades are made by the team.  

“Well, I would say pretty much after it was determined that we were gonna have to redesign some courses due to the pandemic this spring,” Smith said. “So, those discussions actually started taking place about the time that the decision to take the extra week of spring break and redesign the courses (was made).”  

Pass or fail grades are optional for students. For students that struggled with the transition to online courses, a pass or fail grade could be beneficial.  

“I would say… any alternate delivery that’s out there, if it’s not necessarily conducive to their (students) learning style it gives them an option so it.., I think, won’t hurt them,” Smith said. “I do think that it’s (going to) be unique to each case, to each student though. Some students will see them as a benefit, others may or may not want to use those… If you can make an A or a B, it helps your GPA most of the time and for those that are making good grades, I think it’s still a benefit to them. For those though that might struggle because of something that’s been changed, I think it’ll also give them an opportunity to move forward and not be hurt by that.”  

Students considering taking a pass or fail grade should see the Pass/Fail Grading System for Spring 2020 (https://www.pittstate.edu/registrar/catalog/archive/2019-2020/pass-fail-grading-system-for-spring-2020.html). Some departments have provided guidelines for their program(s) to assist students as they consider the Pass/Fail option. The link to those guidelines is posted under the ‘Important Considerations’ section on the grading system page.  

These guidelines are not meant to replace conversations with advisors prior to making the decision. Students considering a pass or fail grade should speak with their advisor.   

“…They should talk to (their) advisor and then they need to notify the Registrar… but the best thing to do is talk to their advisor to find out how it fits in their case,” Smith said. “I know that in some cases, and we were clear about this, that professional licenses some of those folks want to be sure that you have a letter grade. So, they need to make sure that it’s not gonna impact them down the line in some way.”  

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