UC Berkeley Academic Senate advises colleges to adopt flexible grading policies

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One of the ASUC Office of the Academic Affairs Vice President's main points of advocacy is urging departments and colleges to allow major requirements to be taken pass/no pass.

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The Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate advised individual campus schools and colleges to accept the pass/no pass, or P/NP, grading policy in a statement Monday.

The Academic Senate highlighted several key recommendations in its statement, including that colleges and schools accept P/NP for the current fall and upcoming spring semesters, push back the deadline for students to select a grading option until Dec. 4 and not place students on academic probation for taking all their courses P/NP for either semester.

The Academic Senate also noted in its statement that students should be aware of potential negative impacts of taking their courses P/NP, including challenges in receiving letters of recommendation from instructors and in applying for graduate school.

“In the spring, there was broad consensus across much of campus that a P/NP policy was an appropriate, even necessary, response to the challenge of moving mid-semester to first-ever remote instruction,” said Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, chair of the Academic Senate, in an email. “This semester there is far less consensus about the right course of action.”

The ASUC Office of Academic Affairs proposed these recommendations, which were voted on for approval by the Academic Senate.

In its own statement released Monday, the Academic Affairs office stated it would be shifting its focus to UC Berkeley’s various colleges and schools, pushing them to adapt their recommendations. One of its main points of advocacy is urging departments and colleges to allow major requirements to be taken P/NP.

Some students, however, are not completely satisfied with these recommendations.

Campus senior Hesham Jarmakani expressed fatigue and concern about how students are now being encouraged to reach out to their respective colleges in the same way they were previously advised to reach out to the Academic Senate.

Jarmakani said his father lost his job during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he is concerned about how he will support himself during the winter without a source of income.

“I need to find a job,” Jarmakani said in a Facebook voice message. “I cannot simply prioritize writing a research paper or studying for an exam when my PTSD kicks in, when I can’t go out, when the pandemic is literally making us all feel anxious and depressed and stressed out.”

Before the Academic Senate released its recommendations, campus freshman Jennifer Chacon-Duran said in an email that the lack of a flexible grading policy was “a lose-lose situation,” and said it was unfair to students.

Campus junior Kaden Kim, who created a petition in early October addressed to the UC Berkeley Division of Student Affairs calling for a P/NP option, said in an email he found the Academic Senate’s miscommunication and the long waiting period before the recommendations “very irresponsible, insensitive, and embarrassing.”

According to Kim, the short amount of time left for the colleges and schools to make their decisions has made the situation stressful, but the Academic Senate’s recommendations are “fair.”

“Still, this is a responsible step in the right direction,” Kim said in an email. “Now we can only hope that all the colleges and schools within UC Berkeley follow accordingly.”

Contact Tarunika Kapoor at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tkapoor_dc.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the grading recommendations were made by UC Berkeley’s Academic Senate. In fact, these recommendations were proposed by the ASUC Office of Academic Affairs and voted on for approval by the Academic Senate.