New emergency grading system offers flexibility for students

University Community — January 28, 2021

New emergency grading system offers flexibility for students

To help students while they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic or future crises, Ohio State has created a new grading system to offer flexibility when exceptional circumstances might adversely affect students’ academic performance. 

The Emergency Pass grading system will be implemented for the first time in the current semester, spring 2021, pending Board of Trustees approval. In spring 2020 and autumn 2020, the university allowed Pass/No Pass grading for certain courses to mitigate disruptions from the pandemic. 

The new system, when invoked by the university, will be applied broadly to undergraduate and graduate courses that are traditionally graded A-E, replacing lower letter grades with a PE mark. When a student earns a PE mark, they will still receive credits toward graduation, but the PE will not be factored into their grade-point average. Unless exceptional circumstances are declared, courses would continue to use grades without the PE mark. 

“This new system allows the university community to focus on the students’ academic success and continued progression. It allows the university to respond faster and more consistently,” said Russell Marzette Jr., a faculty member who is chair of the Council on Enrollment and Student Progress. “Since the pandemic began, our emergency pass/non-pass policies have varied from term to term. This system provides an academically sustainable and broadly standardized and equitable means of addressing students' needs in these times.” 

Under the system, the PE grade would be recorded automatically for undergraduate students who earn what would normally be a D+ or D. For graduate students, PE would be granted in place of a C+, C, C-, D+, or D. For both graduate and undergraduate students, a failing grade is recorded as NP (non-pass) or NEN if the student stopped attending the course during the semester.

The system was approved by the University Senate on Jan. 28 and will be considered by the Board of Trustees on Feb. 25. The change effectively eliminates the need for the Senate to introduce temporary pass/non-pass policies in the future. 

The Emergency Pass system does not affect instances where certain grades are required to progress in a sequence or to gain admission to a program. Nor does it affect policies that determine academic standing. Accommodations to allow use of PE grades in these cases will remain at the discretion of the individual program or college. 

“The pandemic has created obstacles to learning, and we’re proud that Ohio State students have been able to continue to focus on their studies,” said Beth Hume, vice provost and dean of Undergraduate Education. “By offering flexibility with our grading system, we are prioritizing students’ well-being and recognizing that the pandemic has created new burdens for students who are juggling home, work and educational responsibilities.”  

Alicia Bertone, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, noted that the additional pressure and anxiety caused by the pandemic are likely affecting the entire university in countless ways. 

“What we can do to ease the situation for students, faculty and staff, we must do. Emergency Pass is a strong step forward.” 

To learn more about PE system, see the Grading Policy for Spring 2021 webpage.