By Juan Calvillo
Los Angeles Community College District’s nine colleges will give students the chance to take classes “Pass/No Pass” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The resolution to give students in the LACCD the chance to petition for “P/NP” grading was voted on during the April 3 meeting of the District Academic Senate Executive Committee.
The DASEC passed the resolution to help students continue in their scholastic endeavours with the resolution covering all classes. Angela Echeverri, president of the DASEC, said that the newest draft of the LACCD grading implementation included that students needed to petition for “P/NP” grading. This means students must be the ones who take the responsibility of asking that they be graded as “P/NP.”
The chancellor of the California Community Colleges, Eloy Ortiz Oakley, used his executive power under the California Community Colleges Board of Governors No. 2020-01 and California Code of Regulations Title Five, section 52020, to announce this on March 27.
In Oakley’s update, one requirement under Title Five that is being suspended is “students having to be evaluated by letter grade or ‘P/NP’ at enrollment or within the first 30% of the course.” This would allow for students to change the grading type as soon as possible.
Section 55045 (b) focuses on course repetition and was also affected by the current situation. Oakley‘s update said that “any request submitted by a student in a course that was in progress at the time of the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 4, and for which the method of instruction was affected due to the district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, should be presumed to present a valid ‘extenuating circumstance.’”
This means that if a class was disrupted and can no longer meet due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the process of repeating it will be taken into consideration as something that was beyond the students control. This will allow the district to disregard the previous graded attempt and allow the student to take the course. In other words, if instruction is interrupted and the class is needed to be retaken by students, COVID-19 will be accepted as an ‘extenuating circumstance’ for repetition of the class.
Members of the DASEC also wanted to make sure that this implementation included wording that would encourage students to speak with college counselors. The decision of going with a “P/NP” grade instead of a letter grade depends on the discipline or major.
Ryan Cornner, vice chancellor educational programs and institutional effectiveness, said that not all four-year colleges have gotten on board with making “P/NP” classes count when transferring. Cornner said that he is disappointed that a school like USC has already waived the concerns for “P/NP” transfer students while the University of California has not.
Echeverri and Michael Kalustian, from City College, said that it was important to let students know up until what date they have the chance to change grading for their classes.
“Right now in the policy, it’s the same as the EW and the W dates,” said Cornner. The date for this is week 12 of instruction May 10. This is one of the reasons that the DAS wants students to really have a conversation and weigh their options with counselors about whether to take classes “P/NP.”
Dropping classes in this timeframe will affect financial aid for students and was brought into focus by Barbara Anderson, Pierce College committee member of the DAS. Cornner said that Pell grant monies would have to be paid back if dropped classes force a student into a different status than the one they applied for financial aid originally. He said that changing from letter grades to “P/NP” would not affect financial aid.
Cornner said that the process students will have to go through wouldn’t simply be a button press on the Student Information Portal, SIS, rather it would go through admissions and then it would be changed there. All requests will be approved, but the process will still have to be followed. He said that this grading policy will extend for this semester and any that are under a declared state of emergency.
A conversation to approve work-credit for Nursing students who are doing volunteer hours during COVID-19 was discussed and analyzed. Dan Keller, dean of educational support services, said that an ongoing conversation among the Nursing chairs in the LACCD is being had. The main point is waiting for clarification from the chancellor’s cabinet on issues of liability on the district’s part.
“Obviously, students can participate in these volunteer, or even paid opportunities on their own. Regardless of what we say to them. They’re entitled to participate particularly in the new health corp,” said Keller.
Although there is apprehension that if schools encourage students to do any of this type of work it can create liability for the colleges. Nursing programs in the district are open to granting credit for clinical studies. This all depends on what the students would actually be doing. The Board of Nursing has created a table that can identify what would be part of this.
Since there is no telling what specific jobs participating nurses may be given, Nursing departments would have to decide how to give them credit for what they are doing. Supervisors would then have to show that student nurses have accomplished what was decided upon. Keller said that these credits can be used to cover certain portions of clinical courses or in some cases entire courses. This would be entirely up to the instructor in charge.
Cornner said that conversations with the legal department to address what can actually be done about this. He said there are two points of view. Those who say it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to work during what is very much a pandemic. And then those that see this as potentially putting nursing students at risk in dangerous hospital or clinical environments. Environments that potentially might have issues with protective gear.
Keller said that with the limited environment currently at hand, there are certain things that are in the catalog of classes that can not be completed. He said that students, especially those in the last semester, may feel compelled to do something risky like this to simply finish when normally they wouldn’t. Keller said that Nursing departments have discussed being more understanding about giving out leaves of absence for students at this time.Governor Gavin Newsom launched an initiative earlier this week to help prepare California and its medical personnel. The California Health Corp was created with the goal of recruiting medical personnel such as medical doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, EMTs and certified nursing assistants. This also includes nursing students. For more information visit https://covid19.ca.gov/healthcorps/.