UNCW updates students about pass/fail policy

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — UNC Wilmington has sent students updated information about the university’s pass/fail policy for the spring semester.

An e-mail sent to students reads:

Dear Students:

UNCW recognizes the unprecedented challenges students and faculty are facing in finishing the current semester.  We also acknowledge many students and faculty are in very unfamiliar teaching and learning territory while navigating all of the personal difficulties related to caring for loved ones and adjusting their living and working circumstances. The chancellor, deans and I have collaborated with faculty leadership to develop the below extraordinary policy allowing for students in many courses to opt into Pass/Fail grading after the semester ends and grades are reported. While these adjustments will offer increased flexibility for many students, they will still require you to work closely with faculty and advisors as you consider their options for what remains of the semester and going forward. We acknowledge these adjustments will raise questions, and we have shared the FAQs below to help answer some of the questions that are bound to come up. We will continue to add to them as new questions arise, and we will support you as best we can as you navigate these changes.

In light of the current emergency and the sudden alteration in delivery mode across the curriculum, Academic Affairs proposed the following modifications to these policies for Spring ’20 undergraduate courses only, and, a short time ago, Faculty Senate approved the modified policy:

  1. Pass/Fail Process.  All courses will be graded normally, but students may choose to make ANY ELIGIBLE course grade Pass/Fail AFTER grades are submitted. Students have until Tuesday, June 30 2020, to make this choice.
  2. Pass/Fail Definitions. A “P” grade for Spring ’20 requires a D- or better final grade. 
  3. Pass/Fail Credit Application and Exemptions.

A. “Pass” hours earned in any Spring 2020 course will be counted towards credit hours required for graduation. P/F credits can also be applied to University Studies and major/minor. Deans, in consultation with departments and programs, can exempt certain courses and/or programs from the P/F option when accreditation or other considerations require letter grading. A list of exempted courses will be centrally available.

B. A grade of Pass will not be factored into GPA; however, eligible courses taken for a Pass WILL count towards earned semester hours, hours in residence, and prerequisite requirements (for courses or major admission) except where the catalog requires a specific minimum grade.

C. Fail grades will be included in GPA calculations as an F. 

  1. Honors.  The Dean’s List and other university-level, semester-based honors will not be calculated for Spring 2020.
  2. Transcripts from UNCW will bear a note indicating the semester was disrupted by the global COVID-19 emergency.

Frequently Asked Questions

We realize the policy adjustments being made to grading are very unusual and may raise issues for particular students. We hope the answers below will be helpful for students and advisors as they make decisions going forward about Pass/Fail. If you are a student with a question that isn’t answered here, please contact your advisor.

I am worried about a particular class. Should I plan on taking a pass/fail grade, or withdraw?

Consult with your advisor about your options!  You have until April 6 to withdraw with a passing grade—that withdrawal counts as an extenuating circumstances withdrawal and will not count against your maximum number of W’s. After that date, you can still withdraw but only in consultation with your College/School Associate Dean.  We encourage you to stay in classes you expect you will be able to pass.  If you experience particular difficulties in a class you keep after April 6, consult with your advisor.

Does Pass/Fail mean the standards are being lowered in a course?  Courses must still meet learning outcomes, and faculty are still responsible to make sure that a passing grade indicates those outcomes have been met. All courses will be taught and graded as planned. We hope the policy does take some pressure off students who may be struggling in a particular course or with challenging personal circumstances continue to make academic progress and keep learning!


Will Pass/Fail be available in all courses?

In most but not all. Departments, with their Dean’s approval, will designate some courses or majors where Pass/Fail will NOT be an option for enrolled students. These will be courses that the faculty have identified as requiring a grade for programmatic purposes or to satisfy external regulation and accreditation concerns.

When will exempted courses or programs be identified? Faculty need some time to make these designations. We hope to have the full list available for advisors and students no later than April 13.

If I discover my current course is exempted, will I be allowed to withdraw, even though the W deadline (April 6) has passed?  You will need to consult with your advisor and the appropriate school/college associate dean, but yes, you will have that option.

Can I take Pass/Fail in some courses and not in others? Yes. The decision will be made on a course-by-course basis.  You should consult with your academic advisor before you decide to convert a grade to pass/fail.

When do I decide to take Pass/Fail on a course?  ALL courses will be graded as normal.  You should continue to do your best in all your classes to give yourself the best options.  A form to shift any recorded grade to P/F will be made available when the semester ends.  You will have until June 30 to make the choice.

Can I take University Studies courses Pass/Fail and still get credit? Yes, if you receive a “Pass” grade.

Will a “Pass” grade help my GPA?  No. You will receive credit but no GPA adjustment.

Will a “Fail” grade hurt my GPA?  Yes. It counts as an “F.”

Why wouldn’t I take a course Pass/Fail?  There may be GPA benefits for accepting the letter grade! Also, some courses require a letter grade above the “Pass” standard (a “D-”) to allow you to take later courses in a sequence, or to gain entry into a major.  Also, we don’t know how other institutions (or employers) will view “Pass” grades relative to letter grades down the road, for graduate schools or employment or transfer purposes.  Currently, many institutions don’t accept “Pass” courses for transfer credit. It will often be in your interest to keep the assigned letter grade.

Can I take Pass/Fail in a course I was taking to replace a grade?  No. To take advantage of the grade replacement policy, you have to keep your letter grade in the course. If you are struggling, you might consider a withdrawal, which would allow you to try again.

What if I was already taking a course Pass/Fail?  No. Students who are already taking courses Pass/Fail will receive the appropriate grade at the end of the grading period.

I am a graduate student. Does Pass/Fail apply to me?  See the parallel guidelines provided by the Graduate Council and Graduate School on their website. You may also have this option in some circumstances. Make sure you communicate with your program’s director as well.

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