JSU administrators address graduation, new grading policy in virtual town hall

Acting JSU president Don Killingsworth, pictured, attends UN Day Tea on October 20, 2019. (Abigail Read/JSU)Acting JSU president Don Killingsworth, pictured, attends UN Day Tea on October 20, 2019. (Abigail Read/JSU)

Josie Howell, Sports Editor

Jacksonville State University’s acting president Don Killingsworth and provost Christie Shelton took to Instagram Live on Thursday, April 9 to address specific questions students have recently voiced about university operations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic such as the new grading policy, graduation, summer courses and plans for the fall 2020 semester.

Shelton immediately addressed JSU’s new grading policy that allows students to apply for a pass/no credit option at the end of the semester once they have received their final grade letter for each class on May 1 after 3:30 p.m.

For students to apply, the course itself must be eligible. There are specific programs at Jacksonville State that cannot give this option to their students due to certain accreditation requirements. Some of these include education, social work and nursing. It has not yet officially been decided if this grading option will apply to students taking summer courses.

“We are trying to make decisions in real time and with a situation such as this that evolves by the second sometimes, we feel like we owe it to you, our students and to the faculty, to make decisions in a timely manner and we will do that,” said Shelton.

If a student, however, is able to apply for the pass/no credit option, the student’s program official will then review the request, along with other faculty members of that program if necessary, and make a decision for that individual student. If the request is denied, then the student will receive an email with details as to why their request was denied.

“We decided that a pass/no credit option would be best [compared to pass/fail],” said Shelton. “With the pass/fail option, which many universities are using, the ‘F’ counts against the students’ GPA, so we wanted to do something that was less punitive.”

Killingsworth then went on to address graduation dates for graduating students for the spring 2020 semester, announcing that graduation will be held on July 31 and August 1. However, it has not yet been decided which date will be for spring graduates.

“You deserve to have a day to walk across the stage,” Killingsworth stressed to graduates.

Going into classes for the summer semesters starting May 1, all classes will continue to be 100 percent online. The main concern that Shelton and Killingsworth addressed was that of students who do not have reliable internet connection.

Shelton emphasized that JSU’s chief information technology officer [Vinson Houston] is working diligently with other universities to try and come up with the best solution to accommodate students who were not planning to take online courses. 

One of the ideas that Shelton said the university is considering is wifi parking lots for local students. Shelton expresses empathy for students with limited internet access, pointing to her own issues with internet access.

“I have to be in a place where I can pick up an internet signal or a cell signal for this,” said Shelton, referring to Instagram Live. “I can empathize with our students who have technology issues as I’m one of those individuals.”

As for the fall 2020 semester, Killingsworth and Shelton are both hopeful that everything will resume to normal, including classes and sporting events. If, however, the pandemic has not blown over come August 2020, JSU will be proactively creating a plan just in case.

Killingsworth also emphasized that he is working on doing whatever is necessary to make sure that freshman orientation will still happen for the incoming freshman class.

“[Freshman orientation] may not look the way it has in the past,” said Killingsworth. “We may have to alter dates and times, but we still want to offer that to freshman class coming in. The information that the students and the parents learn during freshman orientation is vital to their success.”

The full video of the virtual town hall can be accessed on the university’s YouTube channel.

Those who do not already receive news and updates from JSU can send an email to jsunews@jsu.edu to receive the Red and White and other university updates. 

For answers to any other questions, Killingsworth and Shelton encourage students to contact them at donk@jsu.edu and cshelton@jsu.edu, respectively.

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