UC Berkeley College of Engineering announces pass/no pass policy

College of Engineering
Josh Kahen/File
The pass/no pass policy allows College of Engineering students to take technical courses for major requirements and Reading and Composition courses as pass/no pass, according to a Berkeley Engineering press release.

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The Academic Senate voted Monday to approve recommendations from UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering faculty to modify the college’s pass/no pass, or P/NP, policy for the academic year, making it the last college to institute P/NP for major requirements.

The P/NP policy allows College of Engineering, or COE, students to take technical courses for major requirements and Reading and Composition courses as P/NP, according to a Berkeley Engineering press release. Students may change their grading options until Dec. 3.

Despite this policy, Julianna Fleming, COE spokesperson, said the college still encourages students to talk to faculty, course instructors and academic advisers about taking courses P/NP. She added that COE recommends students plan ahead and take a manageable course load during the spring semester.

“I feel glad that we were able to provide the specific type of support that students requested,” said Evan Variano, COE incoming associate dean and professor, in an email. “I also feel alert to the possibility of unintended consequences, and hopeful that students, faculty, and staff can handle these together as they arise.”

James Weichert, ASUC Academic Affairs chief of staff, said this policy can significantly foster student mental health and wellness. He noted that his office has been working diligently to garner support among COE faculty and administrators for a P/NP option.

COE sophomore Ashley Chu said in an email that this semester marked a challenging transition for her and she is very relieved COE adopted the P/NP option. Sonali Loomba, COE junior, is also grateful for the P/NP policy but said the decision, which was made three days before the deadline to change grading options, was quite last minute.

“(The P/NP policy) levels the playing field,” Loomba said. “It makes it more fair so that everyone has, at least when it comes to school, the same chances to succeed in their classes.”

COE sophomore Melody Chen noted that while she is not planning on taking her courses P/NP, the policy is an “academic equalizer” for students who encounter unforeseeable circumstances.

Celestina Calarde, COE senior, echoed similar thoughts and noted that since the P/NP policy is optional, students have the flexibility to make a decision based on their situation. Calarde plans to take one of her lab-based elective major requirements P/NP this semester but will be taking her two technical courses graded as they provide useful experience.

“We don’t really know what’s going on in people’s lives and with the pandemic ramping up, things could get a lot harder before they get better,” Calarde said in an email. “Should they need it, I think giving students an option to alleviate some stress from their lives is a good thing.”

Amudha Sairam is a general assignment reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AmudhaSairam.