Academic Senate considers whether to relax academic policies amid pandemic

Anneliese Esparza, A&E Editor

The Academic Policy Committee (APC) of the CSUSM Academic Senate is forming a resolution that would make changes to academic policies such as credit/no credit, withdrawals, probation, disqualification, internships and independent study.

APC plans to complete a resolution by the upcoming senate meeting on Apr. 8. Senators will discuss and vote upon the resolution at that time. While the Academic Senate ultimately determines if the proposed changes are to occur, ASI has provided input on the proposed resolution.

ASI held a special Board of Directors (BOD) virtual meeting on Apr. 3. At the conclusion of that meeting, BOD voted to voice their support of the resolution.

 “I cannot emphasize enough that we at ASI are making it a priority to ensure that any and all policy changes are fair and flexible for students,” said ASI Vice President of Student & University Affairs Michelle Tran via email to The Cougar Chronicle.

“We want to ensure the academic success of all students and we are currently engaging with faculty, staff, and administration who have the same priorities,” wrote Tran.

At the BOD meeting, guests were given a brief time to comment on the proposed changes in an open forum.

Several students said that they wanted credit/no credit grading to be optional, citing concerns such as international students needing letter grades for their home institution and students who wanted to raise their GPA.

After the open forum, Tran spoke to give information on the process and to explain ASI’s role in the decision.

“The CSU Chancellor’s Office has given autonomy to all 23 campuses to create flexible, fair policies of action for students…by Apr. 15, all campuses have to give to the Chancellor’s Office their grading policy options and changes,” said Tran.

“[ASI has] no direct authority over the grading policy changes, but we do have student representation at the systemwide level, as well as in the Academic Senate,” continued said Tran.

Sharon Hamill, who is chair of the Academic Senate, and S. Deborah Kang, who is chair of APC, were present to give updates on the resolution.

According to a draft of the resolution that was current as of the ASI BOD meeting on Apr. 3, students who earn a C or higher would have to elect to opt into a credit/no credit grading basis. Their deadline to decide would be December 2020.

If, however, a student earns a C- or below, their grade would be automatically changed to credit/no credit. These students would have until December 2020 to petition to revert to a letter grade if desired.

“The reason why there is this automated component is that faculty and administrators hypothesize that there may be a set of students who are so overwhelmed by the pandemic that they just can’t even make it into the Registrar’s Office or do what they need to do to make that choice,” said Kang.

“It’s not so much about taking away your autonomy, it’s really about trying to get you guys the best possible transcript, in light of the circumstances,” added Kang.

As of current CSUSM academic policy, students can take up to nine units of credit/no credit courses. That limit would be suspended if the resolution is passed.

Also, per current CSUSM academic policy, credit/no courses typically do not satisfy general education and major courses, with a few exceptions. Kang said the resolution is attempting to change that policy as well.

“APC is strongly encouraging departments to let you count these credit/no credit classes to your major…we’re still fighting over that. But for sure you can apply these credit/no credit classes to GE now,” said Kang.

Hamill acknowledged that the situation is fluid as APC is constantly modifying the draft of the resolution.

“If it seems like we don’t have the answers yet, I’m not kidding when I tell you that things change right now minute to minute. And we’re trying to keep up…Debbie [Kang] did just a fantastic job in a little over a week getting it to this point with this many policies. It’s mind-boggling,” said Hamill.

Students can view the rough draft of the resolution at this link:

APC will be modifying, editing and finalizing the resolution before it is voted upon in the Apr. 8 Academic Senate meeting, which will be from 12:30 p.m. to 2:20 p.m.