On March 18, the University of Maine faculty released a public statement declaring that the timeline for students to choose a pass/fail grade has been extended. This would allow every student to decide to take a pass/fail grade for any of their classes between the dates of April 10 and May 1 for the spring semester. Students will be able to select the pass/fail option by completing an online form that will be available in early April.
If a student selects the pass/fail option for one or more of their courses at UMaine, a student will receive one of three potential grades: P, which is considered a “pass” represents a C- or above; LP, which is considered a “low pass,” is a D+, D or D- and earns credit, but the GPA is not affected; and F*, which is considered failing, provides no credit and the student’s GPA is not affected.
Katelyn Walsh, a second-year communication sciences and disorders major, shared her appreciation for the pass/fail option, but recognized that some students will not be able to take advantage of it.
“My initial reaction to the idea of pass/fail for this semester was one of great relief. I’m someone who struggles to be successful in online classes, while in-person I do very well,” Walsh noted. “[However,] the extension on making the decision doesn’t really make an impact on most students, due to the nature of the qualifications for a course being pass/fail. I know very few of my peers who are taking courses [that] aren’t a requirement for their major.”
For the spring of 2020 specifically, the faculty senate’s statement shared that pass/fail courses will not count in a student’s GPA calculation. Additionally, it was announced that a “P” indicating a passing grade will not meet the C+ or higher prerequisite requirement for a course, rather it would be counted as a C, and not a C-. Lastly, in some majors, a “P” will not satisfy licensure or accreditation requirements.
Walsh felt as though the university did its best to present students with some sense of closure and control during this difficult time, but expressed frustration that the majority of students cannot utilize this option due to the fact that the courses they are enrolled in are required in some way or another for their major.
“Many older students also rely on each semester to build up their GPA from the transition period many students experience during their freshman year,” Walsh observed.
“I think that [UMaine’s extension of the pass/fail option] was a very nice gesture [during] the circumstances we are all currently facing. It has been difficult for many students having had uncertainty in their living situations, whether [they] are debating about going back home for the semester, or staying [in] Orono,” Danielle Stranieri, a fourth-year communications student, said. “I think that as time goes on, and we further transition into this online semester, the pass/fail option will become appealing to a lot of students who are finding it more difficult to transition and complete all their work online, realizing that they might not be able to receive the grade they want for that class.”
This policy change is among many that UMaine has employed to help students during the extraordinary circumstances created by the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States and its spread into the state of Maine. In a statement released by the University of Maine System’s Executive Director of Public Affairs Dan Demeritt, the University of Maine system notes that “as we work to transition to new course delivery formats, living conditions, and health uncertainties, the faculty and staff intend to extend the greatest possible consideration for students” and they hope this will ease the stress that students may be facing.
The university recommends that students that are looking into selecting the pass/fail option for any of their courses contact their academic advisor before they make a decision. The university states that doing so will “ensure the pass/fail option will not impact [a student’s] academic program, financial aid, or future goals.”