Boston University announced its decision to allow undergraduate students to make a credit/no credit designation to their courses March 27 in an email from the Office of the Provost. The decision comes after BU was forced to transition to remote learning for the rest of the semester amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The email explained that BU’s Goldman School of Dental Medicine, School of Medicine and School of Law will have a set of rules different from undergraduate students, with the latter two schools marking courses as pass/fail.
Jean Morrison, university provost and chief academic officer, said this solution came as a result of the major changes happening at BU due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is a special designation that is only for [the] Spring semester 2020 [that] we established because we needed something different from our usual pass/fail,” Morrison said. “Conceptually, you either get the credit or you don’t get the credit.”
Undergraduate students will have the opportunity to get credit for their chosen course, wherein it will be marked as such, or receive no credit and have it marked “no credit,” and not go toward their GPA, Morrison said. The program is optional, and students can decide to keep the letter grade designated to them at the end of the semester.
Those who choose to receive no credit on one, some or all of their courses for the semester, Morrison said, will still need to meet their requirement of 128 credit hours, or 144 for dual-degree students, for graduation, even if that student needs to make up for an entire semester.
Morrison also said that credit/no credit has two main differences from pass/fail. One being students can mark any course, exempting those already marked pass/fail, as credit/no credit. The second is that marking a course with no credit does not mean an F will be marked on a student’s transcript or count toward GPA, as a fail for pass/fail does.
Morrison said credit/no credit was the best option for BU, despite the fact that many students urged the university to adopt a pass/fail option.
“We wanted it to have greater capacity than a simple pass/fail,” Morrison said. “And we didn’t want to forever confuse rules around our regular pass/fail.”
She also said the move was meant to aid the students in this time of immense change.
“What I have found so, so wonderful is that the faculty, in all the discussions, have always kept the students at the forefront of considerations around what we should do,” Morrison said. “And I think that’s a testament to how committed the faculty are to our students.”
BU’s graduate schools without the credit/no credit option — Goldman School of Dental Medicine, School of Law and School of Medicine — are exempt from this option because of their programs’ demands, Morrison said.
“Those schools have to conform with a very particular set of guidelines that are set by their creditors,” Morrison said. “So I thought it was important that they are given the capacity to be aligned with their particular discipline.”
More information about the credit/no credit program, including how and when students will be able to designate a course credit/no credit will be released no later than the end of April, Morrison said.
Evan Teplensky, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, spearheaded a pass/fail petition shared on social media. He said he was very excited when he found out BU was doing a credit/no credit program.
“I know there are some students who are a little upset about it, but I think BU actually made the best decision,” Teplensky said. “They thought about it and thought about all students.”
Teplensky added that the program seemed to be more inclusive than BU’s typical pass/fail one.
“I think on the pass/fail website, it says a C or above, but here it’s a D or above,” Teplensky said. “So just that aspect, to have the consideration they put into it, saying that we’re really looking out for students who might not be doing well and who might be emotionally, physically suffering.”
However, Teplensky said he would like the university to address whether a student who chooses to designate a course credit/no credit can later go back and ask for their letter grade when applying to graduate school.
“I think when they start refining it, they should consider those students in the future,” Teplensky said.