Thursday March 12 was the last day that felt kind of normal to me. I went to work, my kids went to school, and my husband flew back that night from a business trip to Texas. I knew things were changing that day, but I didn’t know how fast and I couldn’t see the contours of how exactly they would change. Every day after that brought new challenges that required adjustments. I know that you too are trying to find steady ground as we adapt to all of the changes rapidly brought upon our lives. The absence of a clear end in sight adds to the unease.
One of our most disruptive changes, of course, has been to move our courses to remote learning. While this comes with the life-saving benefit of social distancing, it has costs. The learning environment is different. The interactions with your professors and peers are different. Study groups and other ways of supporting your learning are different. The use of technology can be a blessing, but also a curse for those who don’t have tools such as reliable internet access. And there are challenges outside the learning environment. Some people now have children home full-time. Some people are worried about their own health or the health of loved ones. Some people have financial stresses from the economic impacts of COVID-19. Some are just tired and have trouble focusing because of all the turmoil. Some people are still doing okay and have hopes of positively impacting their GPAs this semester.
As you know, many law schools have changed their grading policies this semester in light of all of these factors. NIU law students started a petition regarding a pass/fail change and your SBA also solicited feedback regarding possible changes to the grading system that also showed strong support for change to pass/fail. Others made principled arguments against such a change. Your professors have seen that input. They have also seen what many other schools are doing and they have fully explored the pros and cons to different approaches. There is, unfortunately, no solution that resolves all fairness concerns. We recognize that. After much consideration we have decided to adopt the following changes, which we think best balances all of the competing concerns for our community:
- Grading for the spring 2020 semester will be Credit with Honors/Credit/No-Credit.
- For each course, you will receive either a “credit” grade—meaning that you demonstrated satisfactory mastery of the subject matter and you will earn the credits for that course—or a “no credit” grade—meaning that you did not demonstrate satisfactory mastery of the subject (the effective equivalent of failing the course) and you will not receive credit for that course. As a way to recognize those who have excelled in classes that would have been graded before the change in policy (i.e., not pass/fail courses such as clinics), a faculty member may give up to 20% of the class a grade of “Credit with Honors.”
- Neither a “credit with honors,” “credit” nor a “no credit” grade will have any impact on your GPA.
- For students enrolled in a seminar or directed research and seeking to complete their upper-level writing requirement, you will only satisfy the upper-level writing requirement if your professor certifies that your work would have been worthy of receiving a grade of C or better (the minimum grade required to satisfy the upper-level writing requirement).
- If a student earns a “no-credit” grade in a required course, the student will have to retake that course. If a student earns a “no-credit” grade in an elective course, the student will not earn those credits towards the 90 credits required for graduation.
- Impact on First-Year Probation
- For 1L students on probation, normally a student must reach a cumulative GPA of 2.2 by the end of your first year. Because you will not have the opportunity to improve your GPA this semester, we are extending the probationary period to the end of fall 2020. You will need to earn a minimum 2.4 GPA for the group of courses you take during fall 2020 (your term GPA, not cumulative) and a cumulative GPA of 2.2 by the end of your 2L year in order to be in good academic standing.
- If we offer courses during the summer that are graded, any grades earned during summer school will not be a basis for a student to be removed from probation before the beginning of the fall 2020 semester, but they will be relevant when the student’s cumulative GPA is calculated at the end of the 2L year.
- Impact on Class Rank
- 1L students will not have a class rank calculated until the end of the fall 2020 semester. Courses taken during the summer, if any, will be included in the GPA and ranking calculations.
- 2Ls will not have their class ranks recalculated until the end of the fall 2020 semester.
- 3Ls will not have their class ranks recalculated. Your class rank as of the end of the fall 2019 semester will remain the same.
- Impact on Upper Level ASP
- Normally first-year students who have a GPA below 2.4 at the end of the first year are required to take upper level ASP. This requirement will apply to first-year students who had a GPA below 2.4 at the end of their first semester.
- Impact on Required Bar Courses
- Normally, first-year law students who have a GPA below 2.6 at end of their first year are required to take six bar courses during their second and third year. This requirement will still apply based on the GPA earned at the end of first-year students’ first semester.
- Impact on Graduation Awards
- Graduating students will generally graduate with the Latin awards (cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude) based on their cumulative GPA as of the end of the fall 2020 semester. The administration will also explore the feasibility of taking “Credit with Honors” grades into account when determining whether such awards would be appropriate for students with GPAs very close to the grade cut offs.
- Final Exams
- We know there are a lot of questions about the administration of final exams. We do not have answers yet, but will be turning to this issue next. We will provide you with information in the upcoming weeks.
Even in the absence of traditional grades, we hope you can each fully commit yourself to your studies to the extent possible given your different life circumstances. The information you are learning is still relevant to your ability to pass the bar and to provide your future clients with competent legal services. Please let us know if there are ways that we can better support your learning during these times.
Interim Dean and Professor of Law
Northern Illinois University College of Law
Swen Parson Hall, Room 270
DeKalb, IL 60115-2828
815-753-1380 | firstname.lastname@example.org