Updates from CUNY on Grading, Recalibration, and Financial Aid

The latest updates from CUNY regarding Academic Affair issues are below. In this case, the grading policy, more on the recalibration period, and the academic calendar, and impacts of the current situation on financial aid. A summary of all of the memos from CUNY since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis pertinent to academic matters are compiled on the online pdf.

By the Division of Academic Affairs

CR/NC Grading Policy: As we had previously foreshadowed, in response to a change in instructional modality and the disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the lives of our students, faculty, and staff, the University Office of Academic Affairs, in consultation with campus presidents and deans, the University Faculty Senate, and the University Student Senate, has determined the need for a flexible grading policy that will provide students maximum flexibility as they navigate the challenges associated with the University’s move to distance learning and the effects of our City’s social distancing guidelines on their personal lives. The proposed policy, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees on March 30, is reproduced below for convenience.  Please know that detailed implementation plan and FAQs based on questions raised during the development of this policy will be published in due order.

Special COVID-19 Flexible Grading Policy for the Spring 2020 Semester

As part of The City University of New York’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, during the Spring 2020 semester, all students shall have the option to convert any or all of the (A-F) letter grades they earn in their classes, to Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) grading. 

-During the Spring 2020 semester, all students shall have the option to convert any or all of the (A-F) letter grades they earn in their classes, to Credit/No Credit grading.

-Students shall be able to make this decision up to 20 business days after the University’s final grade submission deadline. Once selected, the CR/NC option cannot be cannot be reversed.

-If a student chooses to exercise this option, a passing letter grade (A, B, C, or D) will convert to ‘CR’ with credit for the class being awarded, while a failing grade (F) will convert to ‘NC’, with no credit awarded. Credit/No Credit grades will not impact the student’s GPA.

-Courses taken for a letter grade will continue to be included in the semester and general GPA, while courses taken for a Credit/Non-credit grade will be excluded, just as is the case with such courses taken at a student’s home institution.

-If a student exercises the option of Credit/No Credit, the Credit (CR) grade will not negatively impact the student’s satisfactory progress toward degree completion.

-Students with Credit/No Credit grades will be able to transfer those courses across colleges within CUNY, per current CUNY policy.

-The Special COVID-19 Flexible Grading Policy shall apply to coursework completed on Permit and will not affect Board of Trustees Policy 1.14 – Policy on Coursework Completed on Permit.

-Students placed on academic probation by their institution at the start of the Spring 2020 semester shall not be penalized with academic dismissal based upon their grades earned this semester.

-The Special COVID-19 Flexible Grading Policy shall not affect the University standards of student retention and progress in accordance with Board of Trustees Policy 1.26.

-Before choosing this grading option for one or more of their classes, students shall consult with their academic and financial aid advisors regarding potential impact to their financial aid, licensure requirements, and graduate school admissions.

-The Special COVID-19 Flexible Grading Policy shall supersede and override all undergraduate and graduate program-level grading policies currently in effect at CUNY colleges and schools, including those related to required and elective courses within the major, minor, general education (Pathways), pre-requisite courses, honors courses, courses taken on permit and maximum number of credits that a student can earn with Credit/No Credit grades.

-The grade glossary, attached to each transcript, will be updated to include a notation denoting that all Spring 2020 grades, including CR or NC, were earned during a major disruption to instruction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

-The Special COVID-19 Flexible Grading Policy shall apply to all CUNY colleges and schools, except the School of Law and the School of Medicine, which may develop their own Pass/Fail policies, subject to approval of the Board of Trustees, to conform to norms in legal and medical education.

-The Special COVID-19 Flexible Grading Policy, which shall be effective April 1, 2020, applies to the Spring 2020 semester only and that the Chancellor, may, in his discretion, to meet public health emergency policies and practices, extend this policy to future semesters, if necessary and report such extension to the Board of Trustees immediately.

-The Special COVID-19 Flexible Grading Policy shall be codified in the Manual of General Policy as Policy 1.4. and cannot be overwritten by any individual units of the University, including presidents, provosts, or college councils.

The policy will remain in effect for the Spring 2020 semester and will be reviewed by the Chancellor and extended as necessary to meet public health emergency policies and practices.

Impact of Recalibration Period and Instructional Recess on CUNY’s Academic Calendar: To date, when we consider the losses and gains in instructional days due to CUNY’s Instructional Recess and Recalibration Period, the number of instructional days we need to make are as follows: Mondays (1), Tuesdays (1), Wednesdays (1), Thursdays (0), Friday’s (2), Saturdays (1), and Sundays (1). These days, in the absence of regulatory relief, can ultimately be made up using additional assignments to assist students in making up missed work. Such assignments might include interactive projects, supplemental instructional material, preparation of reports, or other assignments at the discretion of the department and the instructor. This is similar to what the University did to make up lost instruction time during Hurricane Sandy. For Sandy, campuses had to “make up” from 5 to 10 days, so we have plenty of wiggle room based on precedent before having to consider extending the semester. As to the University’s previously scheduled Spring Recess, per the Chancellor’s previous communications, it will now run from Wednesday, April 8 through Friday, April 10, encompassing the beginning of Passover and Good Friday. For faculty, staff, and students whose religious observation extends into the week of April 13, as always, you have the right to request a religious exemption to observe the holiday and we will offer maximum flexibility in addressing the requests. CUNY’s guidance for religious exemptions can be found here and we will remind faculty and staff about our guidance as we get closer to that date.  Finally, the University — along with several other state colleges — continue to consult stakeholders and monitor the current situation as it moves to complete its course offering for Summer 2020 sessions — especially as it pertains to whether or not distance learning should be primarily or completely privileged.

Tenure clock: The University recognizes that the transition to distance learning in the Spring 2020 semester as a result of COVID-19 may cause interruption and delay in faculty research and scholarship. This is particularly critical for faculty advancing toward tenure. Accordingly, the University will permit faculty whose candidacies for tenure are coming up in the fall 2020 semester to receive a one-year extension, if they so desire. Such faculty must request a tenure clock extension by emailing the request to their college Provost by May 1, 2020.  Going forward, faculty on the tenure track who subsequently want to request a tenure clock extension based on the circumstances of Spring 2020 must so apply by February 1 in the year immediately preceding their tenure review. Faculty wanting to apply for a tenure clock extension should follow the procedures normally followed at their college for requesting these extensions to tenure review; their request will be subject to fact-specific review, in accordance with past University practice.

Appointment/Non-Reappointment Notices: During this period of telecommuting, any notices required to be provided to faculty and staff, including those pursuant to Article 10 of the PSC-CUNY collective bargaining agreement regarding notification of appointment/non-reappointment for faculty and staff and Article 13 regarding HEOs, should be sent, at a minimum, to an employee’s CUNY email address. If there is no CUNY email address on file, whatever email address is on file should be used. If possible, especially in cases of non-reappointment, we suggest that multiple methods of communication be used. These may include CUNY email address, personal email address, and text to cell phone number. It is important to use our best efforts to get notification to faculty and staff. We understand that this is an extra burden, but the number of non-reappointments pales in comparison to the number of reappointments, and the colleges must demonstrate strong best efforts to ensure that notice of non-reappointment was effectuated. 

Summary of Financial Aid Considerations in $2 Trillion Congressional Relief Package: A $2 trillion COVID-19 Relief bill passed yesterday, of which, $14 billion was allocated to Education. This must now be put into action by USED, and it should include guidance on how institutions will indicate students affected by this emergency, and direction on implementation. The relief includes:

  • Emergency aid based on enrollment of Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) recipients, for both the students in the form of emergency grant and for the institution to assist with expenses incurred due to COVID-19; 
  • More flexibility in the managing of the FWS and the SEOG programs; including allowing “emergency SEOG” to be awarded up to the maximum Pell award amount, and permitting FWS to continue to get paid during the emergency.
  • If able to administer by USED, loans and Pell grant will not count as having been used for students unable to complete the term;
  • Instituting a waiver process where the amount of grant or loan associated with each withdrawn student would not have to be returned by the school or the student; 
  • Removes the “attempted” credits requirement of the Satisfactory Academic Progress calculations; 
  • Extends Leave of Absences process to standard colleges permitting students to return and complete courses at a later time; 
  • For the duration of the declared emergency, it will allow Title IV-participating foreign institutions the ability to offer distance education; 
  • Suspends interest and payments until 9/30/20 of all Direct Loans.