The Associated Students of the University of Montana’s push for complete credit, credit received and no credit grading options has stalled following resistance from the University of Montana Faculty Senate.
The University-wide grading options of complete credit, credit or no credit (CCR, CR, NCR), implemented last spring in response to COVID-19 complications, are unlikely to return.
The change would need approval from the faculty senate to be implemented again, and senate chair Chris Palmer said the grading option is unlikely to be voted on.
“We are quite sensitive that certain students may be affected more so than others — or certain groups of students may be affected more so than others — but we are not convinced that changing the grade mode is the right way to address that issue,” Palmer said.
Palmer said the senate has looked over ASUM resolution SB 54 passed on Jan. 27, but the lack of support for the alternative grading method proposed means even a vote on the change is unlikely.
The resolution was authored by ASUM senators Adrianna Medina and Vince Tarallo. Tarallo said the resolution was created because students have expressed concerns about virtual learning’s impact on their grades.
Tarallo said ASUM sent an open letter to the faculty senate over these concerns in the fall, but the resolution is a more formalized recommendation for this spring.
He said he understands the faculty’s perspective, but said his job is to represent students.
“They represent the teachers and the educators and how they think we should proceed, and our job was to stand up for the students and their voice, so I don’t think anyone was acting with bad intent at all,” he said.
Palmer said the Faculty Senate received the open letter late last semester when it would have been too late to fairly implement the change.
He said the ASUM resolution brings up some good points as to how instruction during COVID-19 has negatively affected certain groups, but the overall student GPA data from fall 2020 does not suggest a change from prior years.
Data provided by University of Montana Budget Planning and Analysis reveals GPAs did not decrease among undergraduates in fall 2019 compared to pre-pandemic semesters going back to fall 2018.
Palmer said this data may not display how individual students have been impacted, but the faculty is not convinced a University-wide grade change is the best way to address the issue.
“To change the grade mode for all students seems like a pretty blunt instrument if we’re going to try to work towards [the] success of these individual students that are particularly impacted by this situation,” he said.
He said if UM were to offer alternative grading right now it would be one of the few universities doing so, possibly putting UM graduates at a disadvantage compared to those from other schools.
Tarallo acknowledged that UM can’t force other graduate programs to adopt the grading system it wants, but didn't see that as a reason to not address the issue at hand.
“I think it’s better to fix the problem where you can, then to just not fix it at all,” he said.
Palmer said faculty needs to make an effort to identify and support students who are struggling. He also encouraged students struggling to reach out to advisors and professors if they need accommodations.
“The institution as a whole needs to recognize those students, find out who these students are, and work together with those students to ensure their success,” Palmer said.