Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading option to be offered for fall 2020, winter 2021

With the fall semester just passing the halfway point, Oakland University has announced they will once again offer the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading option for not only the fall 2020 semester, but for winter 2021 as well. 

This pass/fail style grading system was offered as an option for students last winter when COVID-19 first hit in March and the university shifted to fully online learning. Though administrators did not offer the option in either summer semester, they realized the need as the semester went on. 

The announcement came via email from Interim Provost Michelle Piskulich on Thursday, Nov. 5. 

To help relieve some of the stress surrounding grading, students enrolled in undergraduate courses can request that their grade in one or more courses be converted to S/U grading after the semester is over,” Piskulich said in the announcement. “Because the pandemic is not predicted to end until summer or fall 2021, this temporary change to grading will be in effect for both fall 2020 and winter 2021.”

Administrators were approached by representatives from OU Student Congress (OUSC) over the summer to address grading options after hearing concerns from students. 

“Dr. Piskulich took [our suggestion for S/U grading] very well,” said Nicole Massoud, OUSC director of student services. “She was very understanding and compassionate. It was a very productive meeting with her, and we presented some student testimonies … they said they would take it into consideration, and maybe it was too late [to offer] for the summer, but they’ll definitely consider it for the fall.”

After hearing student concerns and seeing other universities continuing to offer pass/fail grading systems, campus administrators saw the need for a flexible grading system to accommodate students during the hybrid year. In addition to concerns of stress, the recent spike in case numbers also impacted the decision. 

“If we can’t figure out a way to reduce the stress and the concern or fear — whatever you want to call it — for students, and still keep the academic rigor really high, which we always have, and help students get towards their degree goals and graduating and getting on with a wonderful life, we want to do that,” Interim Associate Provost Anne Hitt said. “So, it seems like the best thing to do.” 

As seen with last winter, S/U grading may not be ideal for all students, particularly those looking into licensure — such as those in nursing school or physical therapy — or people looking to apply to graduate or medical school. Students are encouraged to speak with their advisers to see if S/U grading would be appropriate for them. 

While S/U may not be for everyone, it will provide another option to those who have been struggling this semester with COVID-19-related stressors that would not have otherwise impacted their grades.

“It’s just a huge weight off of so many people’s shoulders,” Massoud said. “This is such a tough time for so many people that I know, myself included.”