Baylor offers pass/fail option to students for spring 2020 semester

By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer, Video by Julia Lawrenz | Excutive Producer

Baylor University will offer all undergraduate students the option to switch classes to a pass/fail grading scale at the end of the semester. The changes are only for the spring 2020 semester as the Baylor community adjusts to online classes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

University Provost Dr. Nancy Brickhouse announced the measures in a statement Tuesday. The new system will have faculty submit final grades at the end of the semester as normal, but after final grades are submitted, students will choose which if any classes are converted to the pass/fail scale.

A student could choose to have all classes graded as pass/fail, or could elect to entirely ignore the system and keep their letter grades. Any grade of a C- or higher can be converted to a “pass.”

Classes switched to pass/fail will not be factor into a student’s GPA regardless of the final grade. The full policy on the Provost’s website says under the system, grades of D+, D or D- will not convert to a passing grade. These will instead count as a failing grade, though one that doesn’t factor into their GPA.

Brickhouse said the measure “reflects the University’s prioritization of the health and well-being of our campus community, as well as the ongoing continuity of our academic mission.”

Robinson sophomore Noah Wingate said the pass/fail option should take the pressure off students who are adjusting the new normal of online classes.

“It’s just good for students especially in a time when there’s a lot of strain on them, you don’t know what students are going through when they head back to their own home,” Wingate said. “It takes a little bit of stress off just having that in place.”

Exemptions will be made for prerequisite classes which require higher than a standard passing grade to progress from. Instead, a “pass” will satisfy that requirement.

For example, a student who needs a B to advance to the next course could elect to convert their C- to a “pass” at the end of the semester and be eligible for the next course. While this presents a loophole which students can exploit, Brickhouse said this decision is not right for everyone.

“Electing a grade of “pass” does not mean that students — especially those within professional schools that lead to professional licensure/certification — should elect the “pass” option and move forward within their major,” Brickhouse said. “We strongly encourage students to have robust conversations with their respective deans; office, academic advisor(s), and/or department faculty regarding their preparedness to proceed to subsequent courses.”

The official policy says students should speak with any relevant advisors or counselors to understand how converting grades will affect scholarships, benefits, graduate school admission, certification or other “professional goals.”

Graduating seniors will have from 5:00 p.m. May 12 to 5:00 p.m. May 15 to make their decision. All other undergraduate students will have from 5:00 p.m. May 13 until 5:00 p.m. May 20.

For his part, Wingate said he’s adjusted well to the online courses and doesn’t anticipate changing any grades to pass/fail.

“I would just take [the bad grade] on as a fault of my own for not doing well,” Wingate said. “Baylor has done a good job I think with all my classes and my teachers of giving me the resources and giving us time to get adjusted to this … Whatever happens to me I’m considering it my fault.”

Baylor’s Office of the Registrar has posted a FAQ web page which provides a more comprehensive explanation of the policy.