Temporary Modification to University Policies 1987-4, 2009-5, 2009-4

Sonoma State University


Temporary Modification to University Policies 1987-4, Credit/No Credit Policy, 2009-5 Withdrawal from Courses, 2009-4 Academic Probation, Disqualification, and Progress, Due to Special Circumstances of the COVID-19 Pandemic


Recommended by: Academic Senate Executive Committee

Approved: April 9, 2020

Issue Date: April 9, 2020

Effective Date: Immediately through June 5, 2020

Contact Office: University Standards Subcommittee and Academic Programs (academicprograms@sonoma.edu)


Legislative History: After SSU announced the move to remote instruction on March 11, 2020, students and faculty voiced concerns regarding the potential negative impact of this move on student grades. The University Standards committee in consultation with faculty, students, and administrators, noted these concerns and developed and approved this recommendation to allow undergraduate students to change their grading mode, to suspend academic disqualifications for Spring 2020, and to withdraw more easily from courses for reasons relating to the COVID-19 pandemic during Spring 2020 or retroactively during Summer and Fall 2020. 

The University Standards Committee voted on the recommended changes below on April 1, 2020, and informed the Educational Policies Committee of the recommended temporary changes to academic policy on April 2, 2020. The EPC concurred with the need to make these changes to ensure that students have the maximum time to make informed decisions about grade mode changes.

A. The following changes shall be implemented regarding graded classes at SSU for the Spring 2020 semester: 

  1. Before changing a grade mode to CR/NC, students should first review the course syllabus and consult with their instructor, and then check with their major advisor(s) or department chair(s), or with the Advising Center if undeclared.

  2. An undergraduate student can change any graded course (major, minor, General Education [including A1, A2, A3, and B4, the “Golden 4”], or elective) for which they are registered in Spring 2020 to Credit/No Credit grading using the My SSU portal. 

    1. This option will be made available to any undergraduate.

    2. CR (Credit) is given in undergraduate classes (499 and below) for work equivalent to a C- or better.

    3. NC (No Credit) is given in undergraduate classes for work equivalent to D+ or below in undergraduate classes.

    4. CR (Credit) and NC (No Credit) courses are not included in the calculation of grade point average.

    5. Courses repeated for grade replacement must be taken in the same grade mode as the original course. If students are taking a course for grade replacement that was originally in letter grade mode, the replacement course must be taken in letter grade mode.

    6. Undergraduate students may count a maximum of 24 units of CR (credit) toward graduation.This maximum is applied at graduation. If a student exceeds the 24 unit maximum as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they may petition for an exception to this limit.

  3. From April 15 to May 8, a student may change the grade mode of a course to Cr/NC in their MySSU portal (see #5 below for an additional timeline and pathway). Students who elect to change a course grade mode to CR/NC by May 8 will have their choice reflected in the Spring semester’s grades. A student who chooses to elect CR/NC by May 8 cannot revert to a letter grade at a later date.

  4. A student can petition the Registrar for a change in grade mode from the time their grade is posted until 5:00 p.m. on June 5, 2020, to convert a posted letter grade to CR/NC due to the special circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the understanding that there may be a considerable delay in updating their transcript to reflect the change. Conferral of degrees will not occur until after June 5 for graduating seniors.

  5. Faculty may advise students on the decision to change the grade modes of courses, particularly major courses. However, the faculty will not make the final decision on a student’s choice of CR/NC or a letter grade.

  6. This policy temporarily supersedes SSU policy 1987-4, which requires all courses counted toward majors and minors to be graded A-F. A grade of CR in a major or minor course would count toward completion of that department’s major or minor requirements as a one-time exception for Spring 2020.

    1. Please note: An academic department will be able to request to opt out of the above-explained arrangement for specific courses. To opt out, the department shall write a memo explaining why the course should not permit CR/NC. The request will be evaluated by the dean, who will then send it to the Senior AVP for Academic Programs for final approval.

    2. Departments may have an undergraduate course opt out for the following reasons:

      1. A course is tied to a credential program.

      2. A course is tied to a licensing program that requires students to receive letter grades.

      3. A course is part of an accredited program that requires students to receive letter grades. 

    3. Departments that require a grade of C or better in a prerequisite course should advise students about how opting for CR/NC will affect the prerequisite. 

      1. Departments may choose to waive the requirement of a grade of C or better for prerequisites taught in Spring 2020, allowing students to take these courses CR/NC (which is equivalent to C- or better). 

      2. Alternatively, departments may advise students not to take these particular courses CR/NC (although students may still choose to do so).

  7. The following transcription notation will be placed below grades for Spring 2020: In Spring 2020, Covid-19 led to temporary changes in University policies. As a result, an individual student's transcript may include credit/no credit (CR/NC) grades or withdrawals (W). To receive credit (CR) for a course, a student must complete work equivalent to a letter grade of C- or better.  

B. University Policy 2009-4, Academic Probation, Disqualification, and Progress, Sections II and III, shall be suspended for Spring 2020. Students who are currently on academic probation will not be disqualified due to poor academic performance, failure to progress, or electing to take Credit/No Credit courses in Spring 2020. Students currently on academic probation will be continued on probation for another semester, unless their grades in Spring 2020 return them to good standing with a GPA of 2.0 or above. 

C. The following modifications shall be made to University Policy 2009-5, Withdrawal from Courses:

  1. Through May 8, students may petition to withdraw from one or more courses for serious & compelling reasons, including reasons relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. A list of reasons typically considered serious & compelling may be found here.

  2. During Spring 2020, the usual $20 fee to withdraw from a course will be waived.

  3. The online form for withdrawing from a single course shall be signed by the student, the course instructor, and a major advisor or department chair or an undeclared advisor, and the registrar’s office.

  4. Through May 8, students may petition online to withdraw completely from all courses at Sonoma State University, for serious & compelling reasons. This form does not require a fee or signatures of instructors or academic advisors.

  5. After May 8, students may petition to withdraw retroactively from Spring 2020 for serious & compelling reasons. 

    1. Typically, withdrawing after the semester ends requires a student to withdraw from the entire semester. However, between May 9 and December 4, 2020, the University Standards Committee will consider petitions to withdraw from an individual course  or courses taken at SSU in Spring semester 2020, for “serious and compelling reasons” related to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

D. These temporary changes supersede all other relevant university policies regarding Credit/No Credit, Academic Probation, and Withdrawal from Courses for the Spring 2020 semester at SSU.

Rationale: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision was made to shift all classes at SSU to a remote modality. This sudden change in modality has resulted in extraordinary stress to SSU students, faculty, and staff, with grades being a primary concern. The decision to allow students the option to seek Credit/No Credit for their coursework has not been an easy one because of some potential negative impacts on certain groups of students. Nevertheless, after considerable discussion among faculty, staff, and students as well as system-wide discussions with the Chancellor’s Office, provosts, and presidents within the CSU, the resolutions above will alleviate some of the stressors and create options for students under the special circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Workload: It is anticipated that there will be an increase in workload for the Registrar’s Office and advisors to implement this process for Spring 2020 semester.

Other implications: It is very difficult to anticipate every implication in allowing a student to declare Credit/No Credit in place of a grade for courses. Students should consult carefully with their advisors before making this decision. Some considerations include:

  1. The definitions which Sonoma State University applies to the letter grades A-F are common and students can expect that other schools and evaluating agencies will understand those grades in the same way that Sonoma State University does. This is not necessarily true of the grades CR (Credit) and NC (No Credit). Students should be aware that some graduate and professional schools sometimes recompute grade point averages based on a different set of definitions. For example, the NC may be treated as an F or the CR may be treated as a C. We anticipate that graduate and professional schools may change some of these practices as a result of Covid-19, but students should seek advice from major advisors about potential risks.

  2. Students should consult with their financial aid advisor about the impact of CR/NC on their individual financial aid packages. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) includes several provisions to help students with financial aid:  

    1. The CARES Act pauses federal student loan payments for 6 months and halts interest accrual during that period.

    2. Students who do not complete the spring semester will not have the payment period counted toward their maximum of 12 semesters of federal aid.

    3. Schools do not need to return federal aid funds if a student withdraws due to COVID-19 crisis.

    4. If a student fails to complete individual courses due to this emergency, Sonoma State may exclude those units from Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP).

    5. The CARES act calls for direct emergency aid to students, including “grants to students for food, housing, course materials, technology, health care, and childcare.” At this time, the U.S. Department of Education has not provided guidance about the amount of aid or who will qualify. Due to this lack of guidance, no federal grants for this purpose can be processed at this time. Please note that this provision of the CARES act does not apply to campus- or program-based grants.

  3. Special populations, such as veterans, international students, and student athletes, should check with advisors to determine the advisability of taking courses CR/NC. Veterans should contact the Military and Veteran Resource Center. International students should contact International Student Services through Katie O’Brien at katie.obrien@sonoma.edu. Student athletes should contact Jared Chasey at chasey@sonoma.edu

Implementation Dates:

  • Students may change grade mode in the Student Portal from April 15 to May 8, 2020

  • Grade rosters will become visible to faculty May 11, 2020.

  • Grades are due by May 21, 2020.

  • Grades will be posted on May 27, 2020.

  • Students have until June 5 (end of business day) to petition to change a posted grade to CR/NC.