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The University of Tennessee Undergraduate Council held a special meeting on Nov. 10 regarding the topics “Campus Change Policy,” “Late Grading Mode Change Request,” “Extend Withdrawal Deadline” and “Policy for Single Course Withdrawal and Retroactive Individual Course Withdrawal Appeal.”

The three latter temporary policies have been anticipated for some time, especially as students have been hoping for grade mode changes amid the ongoing pandemic. 

Amber Williams, vice provost for student success, also sent out an email on Nov. 17 notifying students about these academic policy changes. 

The Late Grading Mode Change Request was for the reactivation of the Satisfactory/Credit/No Credit grading scale for fall 2020 and spring 2021 “only for those students who fit the criteria established by Federal Financial Aid guidelines for COVID-19 related impact.” 

This request had 27 yes votes, zero no votes and one abstaining.

The Extend Withdrawal Deadline and Policy for Single Course Withdrawal requested that the single course withdrawal for fall 2020 and spring 2021 be extended because of the pandemic; this received 18 yes votes, five no votes and zero abstaining.

Lastly, the Retroactive Individual Course Withdrawal Appeal advocated for the allowance of appeals for “retroactive individual course withdrawals,” which was met with 20 yes votes, one no vote and zero abstaining.

As for the Late Grading Mode Change Request, there are some contingencies regarding the ability of students to access the S/CR/NC grading mode. 

Those at the meeting acknowledged that students are still struggling due to the effects of the pandemic, such as having caregiver responsibilities, experiencing continued isolation, increasing economic hardships and more. 

That being said, the request details that if a student has experienced “unforeseen extreme hardship(s) due to COVID-19, as defined by federal financial aid guidance (Appendix A)” that they can ask for their A-F or ABC/N grade to be changed to S/CR/NC after final grades have been posted.

The “Appendix A” regarding the “unforeseen extreme hardship(s) due to COVID-19, as defined by federal financial aid guidance” details a list of 10 contingencies. 

These conditions include the student being severely ill and “unable to engage academically” due to a COVID-19 diagnosis, the student becoming a primary caregiver of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, the student experiencing an economic hardship due to COVID-19 that directly affected their academic performance and more.

The last condition listed says that for the option “Other,” the student must have a specific reason and cannot say that it was due to general stress from the pandemic.

The policy will be in effect for fall 2020 and spring 2021 and the student must request the grade mode change for fall 2020 by a currently unspecified deadline, as it may be different for graduating students, but the original deadline was to be Jan. 15 at 11:50 p.m.

Students should be aware that these requests will not start being processed until Jan. 2021 and they should not expect the final approval process to be completed by the beginning of the spring 2021 semester.

These grade change requests can be for either one course or multiple courses.

As for the Satisfactory and Credit grades, these will be given for courses which satisfy major or minor requirements -- and will need departmental approval -- or General Education requirements -- which do not require approval.

The Satisfactory scale will be equivalent to the letter grade of a C or higher, Credit will be equivalent to a C-minus, D-plus, D or D-minus and No Credit will be equivalent to an F for A-F course or an N for ABC/N courses.

This is the same grading scale that was in effect during the spring 2020 semester.

Regarding the review process of these grade mode change requests, the Provost Office “recommends a holistic review of academic record and financial implications before a request is approved.”

The Office of the Provost will have to determine that the request process “aligns with the federal guidelines for COVID-19 related requests.”

Additionally, the student’s Academic Advisor must review for academic progression and speak with the student about the implications that come with S/CR/NC grades for graduate and professional school admissions. 

The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships must also discuss with the student that this grade mode change may affect their HOPE scholarship.

Williams further encouraged students to contact their academic advisors or to speak with their professors should they consider these requests.

As for “Extend Withdrawal Deadline and Policy for Single Course Withdrawal,” there is currently no deadline available for dropping spring 2021 classes. However, the withdrawal process and policy will remain the same, but with a few changes.

The single course withdrawal deadline for full-semester and second-session courses during fall 2020 will be extended to the last day of classes.

For spring 2021, the withdrawal deadline for full-semester, first-session and second-session courses will also be extended to the last day of classes.

These student withdrawals from classes during the fall 2020 or spring 2021 semesters will not affect their maximum of six withdrawals while at the university.

Additionally, the Retroactive Individual Course Withdrawal Appeal process and policy is also going to remain the same, but with some changes. 

For classes that a student received a C- or below or an N-grade in, retroactive individual course withdrawals will be considered.

Students can submit for Retroactive Individual Course Withdrawal Appeal for fall 2020 no later than the first day of classes for spring 2021 -- Jan. 20 -- and for spring 2021, no later than the first day of classes for the summer semester. 

However, students can only submit these appeals if they have had “extenuating challenges and circumstances beyond their control, and as a last option.”

Similar to the regular withdrawals, Retroactive Individual Course Withdrawals during the fall 2020 or spring 2021 semesters will not count toward the student’s maximum of six withdrawals while at UT due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

All of this information and more can be found in the meeting minutes.

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