Academic policies change for 2020 Spring Semester due to COVID-19 pandemic

Waverly Hart

Editor in Chief

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to online learning, the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) has made several major changes to the academic policy for the 2020 Spring Semester. 

Many of the changes relate to a student’s ability to pass/fail a class. One of the primary changes is that students are able to pass/fail any and as many courses as they would like, even those in their major or minor, which is usually prohibited. According to The College of Wooster website, “courses elected as Pass-Fail for the Spring Semester 2020 will not count toward the maximum number of Pass-Fail courses that a student may take at Wooster.” Additionally, the deadline to pass/fail and drop courses has been extended to the last day of classes, May 1, at 4:00 p.m. Independent Study will retain a standard grading system, but there was a one-week grace period where students could submit their projects past the deadline without a petition.

Dean of Curriculum and Academic Engagement Bryan Karazsia, co-chair of EPC, said the changes were made so students could have flexibility and hopefully adapt to the changes in learning and class structure.

“The main reasoning is because our context is completely different than what any of us expected when the school year began… than when any school year begins,” Karazsia said. “We wanted to build as much flexibility for students into our policies as we could do so, reasonably. Any student may always petition for further exceptions, but we also try to build a system that minimizes the need for students to petition.”

The process for students petitioning is different as well. There is now a more streamlined petition process for course additions, drops, grade changes, and double major proposals. All petitions will be completed online. 

Because of the circumstances , Karazsia said these changes were not made in the usual fashion. “These decisions were made rapidly, and not through typical channels, due to the rapid evolution of circumstances pertaining to COVID-19,” Karazsia stated. “The timing of societal evolutions coincided with our Spring Break period, too, which contributed to the unique processes of decision-making.”

Basliel Ababayehu ’22 is on EPC and was part of the decision process to make these changes. He believes these changes will make online learning more equitable for all students. 

“These policies attempt to maintain equity as some students will experience varying degrees of stressors due to their location, reduced family income or access to learning tools while also recognizing that this is a generally stressful period for all students,” Ababayehu stated. “These policies ensure that students can remain in their major or graduate on time despite a momentary underperformance due to COVID-19.” 

While the changes made represent  major differences to Wooster’s academic policy in a traditional semester, some colleges went a step further and have decided to automatically make all their courses pass/fail for the 2020 Spring Semester. Karazsia said the College considered this, but decided against it.

“Ultimately we wanted students to have the autonomy to choose what works best for them,” he said. “Of course, our advisors are here to help students think about what might be in their best interest, though the decision is the student’s … Our policy on ‘good academic standing’ requires all students to have a semester and cumulative GPA at or above 2.0. There are students who are working very hard to increase their GPAs to return to good academic standing (which can have important implications for federal financial aid and other opportunities), and we wanted them to still have the option of earning their grades. Other students may be trying to increase GPAs for other reasons, and again, we wanted students to have that option. Ultimately, we wanted students to own the decision, and we are always here to help students navigate their academic decisions.”

Ababayehu says he is happy with the speed and flexibility with which the College has implemented policies. “I think this is a very welcome move for students because it offers flexibility,” he stated. “This is beneficial for all students because the students who were happy with their grades can keep them while those most affected by the virus can choose to continue learning without fear of a lower GPA.”

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