USC extends Pass/No Pass deadline to Dec. 3

The decision was motivated by curbing student stress, according to Provost Charles Zukoski.

In compliance with L.A. county’s indoor masking mandate, students at the University of Southern California wear face masks while studying at Wallis Annenberg Hall, Los Angeles, CA, on September 9, 2021. (Julia Zara)

The deadline for students to change their grading option to pass/no pass has been extended until the last day of classes on Dec. 3, the USC Office of the Provost announced in a schoolwide email to students Thursday.

The grading option will be an extension of similar policies over the past two semesters, and comes amid the resumption of in-person classes under the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as sexual assault allegations linked to Sigma Nu fraternity that have rocked the campus.

Provost Charles Zukoski told Annenberg Media that the changes have been made not solely due to recent events on campus, but that they have been in the works since the beginning of the semester.

“What we’re working on is recognizing the ongoing stresses that exist because of the state of the tail end of the pandemic as we come back,” Zukoski said, citing reports of “ongoing reports of students under stress” that included data on self-harm and mental counselling.

Zukoski said the sexual assault reports infulenced their decision, but was not the sole factor being considered.

“Some of the indications of stress that have been growing were in midterms, and the most recent uptick in stress did come from the sexual assault cases,” Zukoski said. “The sexual assault issues brought the question forward, but we were going to have to make up the decision anyway between now and next week.”

The Office of the Provost confirmed to Annenberg Media that students can take any course they want, including coursework that counts toward their major, for pass/no pass credit as long as it does not exceed the previously-existing 32-unit limit.

According to the memo, in addition to the pass/no pass grading option, students can also request an incomplete grade— which allows them to finish the class over the following year— now instead of starting in week 12. The withdrawal deadline has also been moved to Dec. 3.

The Provost’s memo announced that the university will be launching USC Academic Advisor Connect, which the email describes as “new triage service” for additional advising help. Zukoski said his team discussed the matter with academic advisors before implementing the changes.

“We put in place the Advisor Connect because we’re very interested in having students act with the best possible knowledge,” Zukoski said.

More information on this new service will be released Nov. 1.

While this flexible style of grading has been routine for the past few semesters, the Provost does not think such policies will extend in future semesters.

“We would like to go back to some sort of normalcy and grading,” Zukoski said.

He also emphasized that students should carefully consider what grading options are right for them.

“What the best path for them might be is incomplete. It might be that you want to go the pass no pass route,” Zukoski said. “Any of those are fine, but each has different consequences for students, and it’s really important that students think about what those consequences are.”