Policy Change, Amendment to Policy on Pass-Fail Grading System

Policy Memorandum No. 24

Recommended by the Commission on Undergraduate Studies
Approved by University Council: December 15, 1980
Approved by the President: December 15, 1980
Effective: Fall Quarter, 1982

The University Council and I have approved changes in the University's policy to make the pass-fail grading system more effective in serving the purposes for which it was designed. These changes are the result of lengthy study of the pass-fail system by a special committee of the Commission on Undergraduate Studies, chaired by Dr. Richard Bambach. The changes are designed to address more carefully the purposes of the pass-fail grading system in encouraging students to enrich their academic programs and to explore challenging courses outside their majors without the pressures and demands of the regular grading system.

The new policy is set forth in the following six points as approved by Council:

  1. The pass-fail system should be retained. Pass-fail courses are to be chosen from elective courses and those offered on a pass-fail basis only.

  2. The requirements of 45 hours completed and a minimum QCA of 2.50 should be retained.

  3. The number of pass-fail hours applied toward a baccalaureate degree shall be limited to 10 percent of the graduation requirements completed at Virginia Tech, including courses offered on a pass-fail basis only.

  4. A student may not enroll for more than two courses per quarter on a pass-fail basis, excluding physical education activity courses and required courses offered on a P-F basis only.

  5. Courses may not be changed from the A-F to the P-F basis beyond the last day to drop classes without penalty.

  6. Courses may not be changed from the P-F to the A-F basis beyond the last day to resign without penalty.

The changes in this policy may be described as follows:

  1. Under the present policy, students may choose to take on the pass-fail grading system up to 10 percent of the total requirements for graduation. Under the revised policy, students must restrict their choice to 10 percent of graduate requirements completed at Virginia Tech. This change was considered advisable because some transfer students, under the present system, are able to take almost 25 percent of their courses on the pass-fail system.

  2. Under the present policy, there is no limitation on the number of courses a student may take any quarter on a pass-fail basis within the 10 percent total limitation. Under the revised policy, a student may enroll for no more than two courses per quarter on a pass-fail basis. This change was considered advisable because of evidence that seniors take far more pass-fail courses than juniors, sophomores, or thirdquarter freshmen, and that more than 300 seniors took more than 6 credit hours of pass-fail courses in the spring quarter of their last year, according to 1978 data. A review of pass-fail records indicates that the two-course limitation will enable students to take full advantage of the system for its intended purpose of enrichment but will restrict uses that seem to violate the spirit of the system.

  3. Under present policy, once registration for a course is complete, the designated grading system will not be changed. Under the revised policy, courses may be changed from A/F to P/F until the last day to drop classes without penalty, and from P/F to A/F until the last day to resign without penalty. The longer time period is given to change from P/F to A/F to encourage and reward superior performance in such courses. On the other hand, Council accepted the argument that students doing poorly in a course should not have the opportunity of converting from A/F to P/F late in the term.

These changes were approved after lengthy consideration of student objections. Council recognized that the revisions will help correct problems of possible abuse of the system by students who take excessive numbers of pass-fail courses in their senior year of study, contrary to the purposes of the system, and will strengthen the system in achieving its purposes of academic enrichment.

The effective date of Fall Quarter, 1982, was selected to allow ample time for implementation and advance publication of the policy. The revised policy at that time becomes effective for all students.

President's Policy Memorandum

URL: http://purl.vt.edu/vtdocs/policies/ppm24