University proposes adjustments to grading and registration for rest of academic year

For winter term, pending approval, students will be able to choose to keep traditional letter grades or transition to credit/no-credit


Photo by Hannah Denham.

Maya Lora

Washington and Lee University has announced several potential changes to registration and grading policies for the winter and spring semesters as students transition to online learning. 

According to an email sent to the Ring-tum Phi by University Provost Marc Conner, faculty are currently voting on a grading proposal, brought forward by the Courses and Degrees Committee. Conner said the current proposal is subject to faculty approval but “likely” to go into effect when the vote concludes next Wednesday, April 1 at noon. 

The proposal suggests handling winter and spring term grades differently. Conner said that for winter term, “students may choose to receive either the traditional letter grade OR to go with a credit/no-credit option. The choice is completely up to them and they will likely be able to know their final letter grade before making the choice.”

University Registrar Scott Dittman said that under the current proposal, students would have until noon on May 25 to decide whether to keep their letter grades or choose the credit/no-credit option.

However, for spring term, students will only be graded on the credit/no-credit scale, according to the proposal.

Dittman said the credit/no-credit option is not the same as the pass/fail option usually open to students. The primary difference is that a “fail” would affect a student’s GPA negatively, but a “no-credit” grade would not. If a student were to take all of their winter term classes on the credit/no-credit scale, their cumulative GPA would not change. 

Additionally, students are unable to receive credit for FDRs, major or minor requirements if they take them as a pass/fail course. But students can receive credit for those types of courses if they take them as credit/no-credit. 

In order to receive credit for a course, students would need to receive a D- grade or higher. Dittman said that under the current proposal, students could select their letter grades in some courses and declare others as credit/no-credit. 

In a Friday, March 27 email to the student body, Conner said seniors that need additional credits to graduate can take up to eight credits in spring term. The rest of the student body will be held to the usual limits, which allow students to register for three to five credits.

Seniors or other students, including first-years, who will remain on track to graduate without 2020 spring term credits can choose to spring option. First-years are traditionally barred from the spring option opportunity. 

“There was a decision made [when spring term was instituted] that we would require first-years to be enrolled in spring because we wanted them to experience an entire academic cycle as a cohort in that first year,” Robert Straughan, dean of the Williams School, said. “In this particular case though, we realize that students are like faculty at this moment; their life has been disrupted. And the first-years aren’t able to complete the year as a community of W&L students the way we normally would expect.” 

Straughan said that extending the spring option opportunity to first-years was part of an overarching goal to expand flexibility for students for the remainder of the academic year. 

Students with incomplete grades from winter term and students on academic probation can also choose to spring option this year, according to the “Academics” section of the school’s website dedicated to coronavirus updates. 

Students who want to declare spring option have until April 30, or the second day of spring term classes, to do so. 

Students who still need credits during spring term or who simply wish to take a class will receive an updated list of offered courses the week of April 6, Dittman said. 

Due to the cancellation of spring term courses traveling abroad or domestically, some classes may need to expand their enrollment capacity. Some classes that were canceled may be able to pivot to an online course, but others are unable to make that transition. 

Dittman said faculty have another week to propose new courses for spring term in preparation for the reopening of spring term registration. 

Conner said in his campus-wide email that the physical education faculty will continue to offer spring term courses and that “any seniors needing a PE credit will be able to get a class.” 

Dittman added that the registrar’s office has reached out to seniors who still need experiential learning credits offering ways for them to get those credits over spring term.

Conner’s university-wide email also stated that fall registration for the 2020-2021 academic year will likely take place in early May.