Incomplete policy under review

ECS approves revised version for undergraduate and graduate students

By Carly Simpson | 4/13/14 6:56pm

The “incomplete” policies for both undergraduate and graduate students at Grand Valley State University are currently under review. During its meeting on Friday, the Executive Committee of the Senate passed a revised version of the undergraduate incomplete policy that states that undergraduate students cannot graduate if they have an “incomplete” mark on their transcript, even if the course is an elective.

In addition, students cannot take a subsequent courses if they have an incomplete in the prerequisite class, unless the instructors of both courses grant permission.

The current policy states that an incomplete mark that is not converted to another grade during the next semester the student attends GVSU or one calendar year, whichever comes first, will be changed to the grade F. This means the F will only affect the student’s GPA.

Though students cannot graduate with an incomplete mark under the new policy, there is no limit to the number of incompletes a student can have at one time.

Between 2007 and 2012, there were 4,565 incompletes at the undergraduate level. This was a matter of concern for some ECS members.

“They can’t graduate, but they can continue to take classes,” said Donijo Robbins, professor of public finance. “Aren’t we setting them up for failure if they can have five incompletes in the fall semester and then register for five more courses in the winter semester? How is a student then supposed to complete 30 credits before the deadline?”

However, an incomplete can only be granted if a small amount of the coursework is left. The student is not required to take the entire course again.

The revised policy also states that a grade of incomplete will only be granted if there is 20 percent or less of the semester left, the student has done satisfactory work thus far in the course, the unfinished work can be clearly delineated, and there is a justifiable reason why the student cannot complete the workload.

The ECS passed similar revisions for the graduate incomplete policy at its April 4 meeting. However, this policy would still allow graduate students to graduate if they had an incomplete mark on their transcripts.

The new graduate policy would also make the incomplete form available digitally for professors to fill out online rather than requiring a stop in the registrar’s office. The undergraduate policy does not include this provision, though there was talk of adding it still.

“There are times where I’ve had to drive 85 miles roundtrip in order to fill out one piece of paper and sign my name and go back home, which is a difficult thing to do with the tight timeline of final exams and submitting final grades,” said Nancy Levenburg, associate professor of management.

Since the graduate and undergraduate policies are very similar, ECS members discussed combining them. This idea will be brought up at the University Academic Senate meeting on April 18.

“I know it’s two different communities, but it seems to me that for those of us who end up teaching both types of courses, they sort of say the same thing,” said Joy Washburn, associate professor of nursing. “Wouldn’t it be simpler if we had a single policy?”

Brent Smith, chair of the academic policies and standards committee who was charged with reviewing the undergraduate policy, said the two policies were revised with different criteria in mind.

“One of the reasons it was approached differently is because there were different considerations going into it,” Smith said. “They were developed separately, but not inconsistently. There are peer institutions that have similar forms.”

If the policies are passed at the UAS meeting, they will go to the Board of Trustees for final approval.

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