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April 6, 2020 - A message from the faculty senate regarding grading and resources

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Information

To the SFA Community,

SFA was founded in 1923 as a teacher's college. For 97 years our faculty has worked tirelessly to support our students. Our low student-faculty ratios, hands-on approach to learning, and the authentic academic rapport we build with each class of SFA students has made us an exceptional community of learners.

We now find ourselves in circumstances unprecedented in the history of our institution. The students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of SFA are struggling in many ways that were unimaginable one month ago. We hear that you are struggling. We empathize. We see your uncertainty in our world right now. We tread this path together. We feel the barriers you face. We are here for you, wherever "here" may be.

In the midst of this turmoil know one thing: SFA faculty remain committed to supporting our students. Four changes are being made to assist students during these trying circumstances:

  1. The course withdrawal date has been extended to April 30, to give students ample time to adjust to online learning.
  2. Dropping a course will not count against the six-drop limit established by the Texas Education Code.
  3. Students on academic probation in Spring 2020 will not be placed on suspension when they enroll in Summer 2020 or Fall 2020 semesters.
  4. A "hotline" has been established for students who need assistance contacting their professors or an advisor. Students may complete a form at or call (936) 468-3401 to request assistance. Someone will be in touch with you shortly to help resolve the issue.

Additionally, faculty members and administrators are being encouraged to utilize another tool to assist students this semester. Rather than assigning a letter grade at the end of the semester, professors may award a WH, which is an incomplete (or "withheld") grade. This is an agreement made between a faculty member and a student, on a case-by-case basis, and can be made during finals week as faculty are entering grades. The faculty member should work with the student to determine what remaining course requirements need to be completed and a due date. Upon successful completion of those requirements, the student's grade is changed from a WH to the letter grade earned in the course.

While some large universities across the country have switched grading schemes in response to this global pandemic, the SFA faculty does not believe that is the best course for our students, for many reasons. But we can summarize them with one simple theme. Since our founding in 1923, our most important priority is student success. That was true on March 1, and these dire circumstances have further renewed our determination.

The overriding concern faculty have with a pass-fail option, in any form, is that it would cause more harm to SFA students than good. We have heard the calls for a lifeline. We want to provide one. But we want to be certain it is attached to a life-raft, and not to an anchor. That is the sole intent of the SFA Faculty Senate resolution. We seek to do what is best for SFA students, and believe we have done so after careful consideration of numerous possible options.

Examples of unintended consequences of a change to pass-fail grading include:

  • Difficulty obtaining licensure or certification for careers such as nursing, teaching, and accounting.
  • Difficulty being accepted to graduate school, law school, medical school, or other professional programs.
  • Loss of financial aid.
  • Loss of scholarships, fellowships, or awards.
  • Loss of veteran and related benefits.
  • Loss of Honors status or summa cum laude, magna cum laude, or cum laude distinctions.
  • Loss of status on the Dean's List or President's Honor Roll.
  • Loss of athletic eligibility.
  • Impact on students on probation.
  • Impact on visa status of international students.
  • Students entering subsequent courses poorly prepared.
  • Students taking longer to earn a degree.

The SFA Faculty Senate has worked diligently with the SFA administration to chart the best course forward for SFA student success. We do not believe this involves pass-fail grading, but rather enabling the faculty to do what is best for SFA students: one student at a time, one class at a time, one barrier at a time. If you have a problem, contact your faculty member. We are committed to helping you resolve each issue you face in our courses.

Each situation is unique, but we have many axes in our toolshed. Faculty can extend deadlines within the semester. Faculty can consider curving grades within their courses. Faculty can alter assignment parameters, or the number and nature of remaining assignments. Communication is the key to this working. Student resources are available to you. Check your email. Check D2L. Engage in your courses to whatever extent you can in your current situation, and communicate with your faculty if you have difficulty engaging. We will listen. We are here for you.

Axe 'em!

Jeremy Stovall
SFA Faculty Senate Chair