Pass/No Pass

As part of our initiative called Curious Cornhuskers, an anonymous reader asked, “Are there any updates on the Pass/No Pass policy for the fall 2020 semester?”

Last week, the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska passed a resolution advocating the university to adopt an alternative Pass/No Pass policy for the fall semester, similar to the spring 2020 semester. The proposed policy change would have given UNL students the option to change their classes to Pass/No Pass after final grades are posted. All classes, including those not originally eligible for the policy, would have been eligible for the change. This policy would not have impacted degree requirements or a student’s GPA.

At Wednesday’s meeting, President Roni Miller announced that UNL’s Faculty Senate had voted against supporting ASUN’s resolution. 

“In all honesty, it's very disappointing. It's pretty frustrating too,” Miller said. “I think those are the two words that best encapsulate it. I think that while ASUN can do our best to advocate for students, and students themselves can do their best to advocate by telling their stories and sharing their testimonies with us regarding the necessity of this change, it ultimately relies on faculty, and specifically the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, recognizing the stress that students are dealing with this semester. And that just didn't happen.”

Miller shared with The Daily Nebraskan email correspondences between Miller and Faculty Senate President Nicole Buan regarding the senate’s decision not to approve the policy change. 

In the emails, Buan said that while the senate was sympathetic to student concerns about this semester’s challenges, faculty adjusted their curricula to ease workloads for students. 

Additionally, she said the Faculty Senate Executive Committee was concerned that changing the Pass/No Pass policy this late in the semester would be logistically infeasible and unfair to students who had already withdrawn from classes.

Buan could not be reached for comment by The Daily Nebraskan at this time. 

Miller said she felt the Faculty Senate did not give sufficient reasoning for rejecting ASUN’s resolution.

“I really thought that it was inadequate,” Miller said. “I think that when Internal Vice President Drew Harrahill and I met with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee earlier this week on Tuesday, some of that reasoning was brought up and I felt like we appropriately addressed it, especially in regards to the concerns for the students that have already withdrawn from classes and addressing that potential inequity.”

Miller said ASUN had presented student testimonies to the Faculty Senate, countering the claim that faculty had sufficiently adjusted to student needs this semester and that significant challenges still existed. 

“Over 430 students responded to us and told us how that is simply not true, how not enough has been done in terms of flexibility and understanding and how it is uneven across campus,” Miller said.

Amy Goodburn, senior associate vice chancellor and dean for undergraduate education, said the Pass/No Pass policy was originally modified in the spring because the semester unexpectedly pivoted to remote learning.

“That was a very rough … transition not only for students but for faculty,” Goodburn said. “But for the fall, we haven’t had to make that pivot.”

For the fall semester, Goodburn said the university promised students would have the opportunity for in-person instruction, so both students and instructors were informed of what to expect.

“We felt that, for the most part, there hasn’t been a need to modify our grading policies because our instructors were able to prepare over the summer to take lots of institutes and workshops to further refine their syllabi and to convey the learning that they want to accomplish in their courses,” Goodburn said.

However, many courses have transitioned to be remote, though enrollment-wise the courses are still listed as in person. Some students have adjusted to web conferencing courses, while other courses shifted to be fully asynchronous online.

Miller said ASUN has gone back to the drawing board to determine how else it can help students this semester.

“We’re thinking about what we can still attempt to do this semester and making sure that even if they don't want to change their policy, at least they understand the gravity of their decision in understanding the full reality that students are facing on campus this semester,” she said.

Despite disagreeing to change the policy this semester, Buan informed Miller that the Faculty Senate Executive Committee would be happy to work with ASUN on potential adjustments to the Pass/No Pass policy for the fall three-week session or the spring 2021 semester. 

Miller said ASUN is considering more flexible Pass/No Pass options for these upcoming academic periods in hopes that students can have more positive academic experiences compared to this semester. 

“While it may be true that some students have had understanding faculty that have made adjustments to the demands they put on their students, it's not true for every student on campus,” she said. “The Faculty Senate Executive Committee's decision to just refuse to acknowledge that reality is really infuriating to a point … [they’re] assuming that they have done enough and that they have done a good job rather than hearing us when we were telling them that no, a good job has not been done across campus.”

COVID editor Zach Wendling contributed to this report.,