USC announces pass/no pass grading option and Wellness Days for spring semester

The grading option was announced shortly after the same option was granted for the current semester after considering student demands. (Beth Mosch | Daily Trojan)

Students will be able to choose a pass/no pass grading option for Spring 2021 until April 30, Provost Charles Zukoski announced in a Universitywide email Monday. Wellness Day dates that will be offered in lieu of Spring Break throughout March and April were also announced.

The announcement for spring grading was made shortly after the expanded pass/no pass option was made available to students for the current semester following a circulating petition urging USC officials to provide the option. The Undergraduate Student Government also backed the petition at a Senate meeting Oct. 6.  

In a student media briefing Monday, Vice President for Enrollment Management Kedra Ishop said the University hopes students can strategically plan for the upcoming semester in regards to course grading options and workload. 

“We also want to balance the need to ensure that we are maintaining the integrity of your academic experience on campus while providing as much flexibility as we can,” Ishop said. “It was both extending from three weeks to the end of the semester for the fall and getting ahead of the game and making the announcement for the spring semester so that as students were registering you could make good decisions and informed decisions about your coursework and course load.” 

A circulating petition with over 5,200 signatures at the time of publication is also demanding the current semester’s grading policy be extended until after final grades are posted, as it was in the spring semester. USG released a statement Monday in support of the extension. 

“It would be dishonest to claim that the student body, although remarkable in their academic prowess, are able to operate at their full potential due to these realities,” the statement read. “Additionally, it is worth noting that conditions in online classes already disadvantaged students, regardless of external circumstances limiting their focus and investment.” 

Given USC’s intention to hold hybrid classes in the spring and avoid surges in positive coronavirus cases through travel, five Wellness Days will be offered. These Wellness Days are to serve as a day where there are no scheduled classes or work expected of students to provide a time to rest or connect with friends and family, Ishop said. 

“A lot of the conversation was also about ensuring that Wellness Days are Wellness Days,” Ishop said. “That it’s intent for not only students, frankly, but faculty as well, to take a day to take a breather, to take a day off, no exams, no major papers due the next day or exams the next day.”

The dates chosen — March 12, March 23, April 7, April 22 and April 30 — were decided by USC administration after consulting with the deans of each school and student government, to offer students a break while simultaneously avoiding major disruption to coursework and limiting travel by avoiding long weekends, Ishop said. 

“[We’ve] gone through a myriad of versions of the days, this wasn’t the first and only version of the days we came up with,” Ishop said. “All of those changes came through conversations with faculty and with academic leadership and students in a way to try to meet as many needs as possible while also still maintaining those goals of protecting the health and safety of the campus and providing those days off.”

The spring semester will begin on a Friday, Jan. 15, and will be met early on with two days off on Mondays due to national holidays, which is why Mondays are not included in Wellness Days, Ishop said. 

The University did not update on plans for the structure of learning next semester but said it is continuing to work closely with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on returning back to campus. 

“We are as anxious as you are to return to in-person learning,” the email read. “We continue to work with L.A. County Public Health authorities in the hopes of receiving approval to bring back more students, faculty, and staff for Spring; however, state and county restrictions still prevent us from resuming more on-campus activities.”