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Faculty/Staff FAQs

S/SP/U Grading Policy for Spring 2020 Courses

Frequently Asked Questions for

Faculty and Staff

 

What is the S/SP/U grading option? The S/SP/U option is an emergency grading system that permits students to receive a letter grade for their courses or to switch some or all of their Spring Semester 2020 courses to a pass (S/SP)/fail (U) grading system.

A. This emergency pass/fail grading system will apply the following grades to undergraduate courses:

  • S (Pass) Satisfactory or passing performance at the undergraduate level (letter grades A to C). Academic credit earned.
  • SP (Pass) Satisfactory or passing performance at the undergraduate level (letter grade D). Academic credit earned.
  • U (Fail) Unsatisfactory or failing performance (letter grade F). No academic credit earned.

B. This emergency pass/fail grading system will apply the following grades to graduate courses:

  • S (Pass) Satisfactory or passing performance at the graduate level (letter grades A to B). Academic credit earned.
  • SP (Pass) Satisfactory or passing performance at the graduate level (letter grade C). Academic credit earned.
  • U (Fail) Unsatisfactory or failing performance (letter grades D to F). No academic credit earned.

Academic credits successfully completed under the S/SP/U grading system will count toward the total earned semester hours but will not be included in the calculation of the cumulative grade point average.

Courses that currently offer S/U grades as the only grading options will continue to offer that grade.

Why is this option available now?

Virginia State University recognizes that the transition to remote instruction to ensure the health and safety of the university community amidst the uncertainties of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has been particularly disruptive to the teaching and learning experience. Mindful of the extraordinary challenges and stresses that this disruption has created for students and faculty, the University is implementing these emergency measures to help mitigate related anxieties and enhance students’ academic success.

 

 

Does this mean that the University’s grading system has changed?

No.  The S/SP/U grading option is a temporary exception to the current grading system that will be available to students during Spring Semester 2020 only. This emergency grading accommodation was developed in collaboration with the Faculty Senate leadership, SGA leadership, representatives from the Academic Credits Committee, and the Office of the Provost to address a global crisis that has adversely impacted students and faculty.

Where did the “SP” grade come from?

  1. SP for Undergraduate Courses: Under VSU’s current grading system, an S grade is awarded for satisfactory performance in an undergraduate course and may represent the letter grades A through D.  While the Department of Education recognizes a D as a passing grade, many major courses and prerequisites require students to earn at least a grade of C.  Therefore, in order to enable faculty to determine that students converting letter grades to a pass/fail grading system actually earned a C or better, the S grade will be used for letter grades A through C, while the SP grade will be used for those courses in which students earned a grade of D.  Students will earn academic credit for both the S and SP grades even though the grade will not be included in the GPA calculation.  Once again, the SP grade is part of the temporary emergency grade accommodation for Spring Semester 2020 only.
  1. SP for Graduate Courses: Under VSU’s current grading system, an S grade is awarded for satisfactory performance in a graduate course and may represent the letter grades A through C. Therefore, in order to enable graduate faculty to determine that students converting letter grades for graduate courses to a pass/fail grading system actually earned a B or better, the S grade will be used for letter grades A through B, while the SP grade will be used for those graduate courses in which students earned a grade of C.  Students will earn academic credit for both the S and SP grades even though the grade will not be included in the GPA calculation.  Once again, the SP grade is part of the temporary emergency grade accommodation for Spring Semester 2020 only.

Which students are eligible to choose the S/SP/U grading option?

The S/SP/U option is available to all undergraduate and graduate students.

What will faculty have to do to accommodate the S/SP/U grading option for students?

NOTHING.

Will faculty have to change the way they are grading their courses this semester?

NO.  Faculty will continue to maintain and record grades in accordance with the letter grade system in the VSU catalogs for courses based on letter grades.  There will be no change in the manner in which faculty traditionally input final grades.  At the end of the exam period, faculty will submit grades to the Office of the Registrar as they normally do.  Grades of graduating students are due in Banner by 5:00 PM on Friday, May 8th.  The remainder of the grades are due by 5:00 PM on Wednesday, May 13th.  Only after grades are submitted will the S/SP/U grade conversion take place.  Students will have until May 15th to request the S/SP/U grading option. Faculty will not be notified of the identity of students who have opted for the S/SP/U grade conversion.

How will the S/SP/U grade conversion actually take place?

Students will submit an Opt In request to the Office of the Registrar no later than 5:00 PM on Friday, May 15th.  The necessary forms and instructions will be available to students on the Office of the Registrar’s web page.  Because late Opt In requests will not be accepted, faculty should ensure that all final grades are posted by the Registrar’s deadline so that students can see their final grade before this deadline.

 

How will students decide whether not to take the S/SP/U option?

Because decisions are final, students are strongly encouraged to consult with their academic advisors, program coordinators, or department chairs to consider carefully which courses are best suited for the pass/fail grading option.  Through appropriate academic advising, students can be reminded of programmatic restrictions that may prevent the conversion of some course grades to an S/SP/U grade or other reasons why the conversion may not be advisable.   Ultimately, the decision to designate a course for the S/SP/U grading option and any responsibility associated with that decision reside with the individual student. 

What if students change their minds after May 15th?

Once students select the S/SP/U grading option, the decision is final.  Therefore, students should consult their academic advisors and consider carefully if taking the S/SP/U option is the best choice academically.

Do students have to change to the S/SP/U grading system?

No.  Students may choose not to switch any courses to this grading option and keep letter grades for all courses completed during Spring Semester 2020.  There may be multiple reasons why a student chooses to keep the letter grades earned.

 

How many courses can a student change to S/SP/U?

The S/SP/U grading option may be selected for one, some, or all courses completed during Spring Semester 2020 only.

How will the S/SP/U grading system affect a student’s GPA?

A passing grade (S, SP) will not be factored into the GPA; however, these courses will count towards earned semester hours. A failing grade (U) will not be factored into the GPA, and no semester hour credit will be earned.  If the S/SP/U option is selected for one or more courses, the GPA will be calculated based on the remaining letter grades earned during Spring Semester 2020.  If the student chooses the S/SP/U grading option for ALL courses, then the student’s GPA will be the same as it was at the beginning of Spring Semester 2020,

What happens if students are currently on academic warning or probation?

Undergraduate students on academic warning or on academic probation should understand that switching all courses to S/SP/U will not change that status.  With no change in GPA, this academic status will continue for another semester. Graduate students are strongly encouraged to speak to their academic advisors or program coordinators.

What if a course that a student is taking is a prerequisite for another course in an academic program?

The S/SP grade awarded for a course that is a prerequisite for another course in an academic program will be accepted for prerequisite credit in the sequence ONLY if the S/SP grade was earned during this emergency grade accommodation period. 

What about major courses and professional programs that require a certain grade?

Students are encouraged to consult with their academic advisors or program coordinators before making a decision about converting course grades to the S/SP/U grading system.  Academic advisors should discuss with students any accreditation standards or other programmatic requirements related to students’ academic performance in courses in the major. However, the decision to select the S/SP/U grading option and any responsibility associated with that decision reside with the student.  

 

What if a student is repeating a course?

Students currently retaking a course in an attempt to replace a low grade should not consider selecting the S/SP/U option. However, students should consult with their academic advisors regarding all repeat courses in progress during Spring Semester 2020.

What about grades for internships, practica, or other field programs?

Students enrolled in credit-bearing internships, practica, or other field programs during Spring Semester 2020 should consult with their academic advisors or program coordinators before making a decision about converting those course grades to the S/SP/U grading system.

How will the S/SP/U option affect the NCAA eligibility of Student Athletes?

Currently, subject to NCAA guidelines and requirements, Student Athletes would not be eligible to select the S/SP/U grade option, unless there is a waiver provided by the NCAA specific to academic eligibility.  Student Athletes should consult with  or direct questions about their academic eligibility to Peggy Davis, Associate VP of Intercollegiate Athletics, pdavis@vsu.edu  or (804)-524-5030 or Deborah C. Mallory, Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, dmallory@vsu.edu or (804)-524-5571.

 

How will taking the S/SP/U option affect students who are receiving financial aid?

All SAP (Satisfactory Academic Progress) guidelines from the Department of Education will be followed. In addition, student recipients of University scholarships or graduate assistantships would be eligible to opt for S/SP/U grades where applicable. However, scholarship recipients should be reminded that the criteria to maintain scholarship eligibility will remain in effect.  For questions about undergraduate scholarship eligibility, please contact Dr. Daniel Roberts in the Honors Program at droberts@vsu.edu or (804)524-6459 or Ms. Sheila Allen in the Financial Aid Office at sallen@vsu.edu or (804)524-6854.  For questions about graduate assistantship eligibility, please contact Dr. Isis Walton, Dean of the College of Graduate Studies at iwalton@vsu.edu or (804)-524-6864.

Please note that an institution may award a student financial aid only one time for retaking previously passed coursework. Department of Education considers a passing grade as any grade greater than a failing, or “F”, grade. The institution may award financial aid to retake previously failed coursework.

 

Can I still give students an incomplete in a course?

Yes. The incomplete (“I”) option will continue to be available to faculty to assign to students who are passing the course but who, due to extenuating circumstances, are unable to complete course requirements by the end of the term.  Faculty will follow the existing academic procedures for assigning an “I” grade.

 

Will students still be able to withdraw from a course?

The withdrawal (“W”) option will continue to be available to all students.  The last date to withdraw from a course this semester (with a "W" appearing on your record) is extended to the last day of classes, Wednesday, April 29, 2020. A grade of “W” is not calculated into the GPA.   Students may visit the Registrar’s web page for forms and instructions for completing this process remotely.

Students should continue to be mindful of the need to maintain a fulltime course load to satisfy financial aid requirements.  International students should also be mindful of the need to maintain a fulltime course load to satisfy their F-1 visa requirements.

Will the S/SP/U grading option be available to students next academic year?

No.  The S/SP/U grading option is a temporary emergency grade accommodation in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic and is currently applicable to Spring Semester 2020 courses only.