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Students advised to think carefully about S/U grading option

If students opt in to the S/U grading system, their academic records and transcripts for spring 2020 will state “Extraordinary circumstances encountered — (COVID-19).”

After a USF student petition received more than 7,000 signatures online, the signees’ wishes have been granted.

Vice President of Student Success​ Paul Dosal announced Wednesday in an email that USF will offer students the option of taking a satisfactory or unsatisfactory (pass/fail) grade for the spring semester.

But students will have to decide if this is the best option for them. 

The email said the S/U grading system will be optional for students and it will be applied on a course-by-course basis. The student’s GPA will not be affected by the S/U grading system. 

“I encourage you to be very thoughtful as you make this decision,” Dosal wrote in the email. “USF responded to this request from our students as part of our commitment to giving you every opportunity to succeed, especially in this time of uncertainty.” 

If students opt in for the S/U grading system, their academic records and transcripts for spring 2020 will state “Extraordinary circumstances encountered — (COVID-19).”

Students will have between March 30 at 7 a.m. and April 10 at 11:59 p.m. to submit their decision online. 

The form to implement the S/U grade can be found on USF’s Current Student Toolkit. If a student decides to opt in for the S/U grading, the option cannot be reversed.

The students who pass a class with a letter grade of “S” means that they have met all course-specific minimum letter grade requirements, either letter grades of A, B or C (+/-).

In case a student ends with a letter grade of “U,” then it means the requirements of the course have not been met and the student will need to retake the class. Letter grades of D or F are equivalent to a grade of “U.”

For graduate students, the rules change slightly.

As stated in the graduate catalog, only courses with grades of C or higher will be considered for a graduate degree, which means that grades of C- or below will not count for their degree. 

For graduate students, the “S” grade is equivalent to letter grades of C or higher and the “U” grade is equivalent to C- or lower.

In regards to scholarships and financial aid, USF spokesperson Adam Freeman said it varies by student.

“For example, if someone has a Bright Futures or a different scholarship or grant that requires maintaining a certain GPA and minimum earned hours, it will be very important for that individual to make sure they understand any implications that the S/U option could have on their GPA and credits earned,” Freeman said in an email to The Oracle. 

Faculty will continue to submit the grades in Canvas by letter grades. The change will be made by the Office of the Registrar after the grades are submitted.

This decision, however, does not apply to everyone.

Students seeking a doctor of pharmacy degree are excluded from the S/U grading system. Those in the Morsani College of Medicine’s undergraduate medical education, physician assistant and doctor of physical therapy programs will need to contact their respective program director about specifics of the S/U policy adopted, according to Freeman.

With this decision, USF has also pushed ahead the deadline to withdraw from classes without academic penalty to April 3, as well as class registration for summer and fall to April 6.

Those who withdrew from classes after March 24 will have “Withdrawal in Exceptional Circumstances (WE)” in their records. In addition, the limit on the number of courses from which a student can withdraw after March 24 will also be lifted.

Students can request refunds or tuition and fees if needed, but the process has to be approved. A fee adjustment petition, alongside verifiable documentation, must be submitted to the Office of Registrar by the end of the semester.

“Each individual student has to make the best decisions for themselves and how it may impact their academic progress this semester and in the future,” Freeman said.

The petition was started on Change.org by second-year biomedical sciences major Lea Baddoura.

“I think a pass/fail option matters for students because there are so many people right now who are dealing with things way larger than school,” Baddoura said in an interview with The Oracle earlier this week. “A lot of people started signing the petition not for themselves, but for others, and that made me very proud of USF.”