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Academic Grade Forgiveness


The purpose of this policy is to provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to eliminate credit and remove grades from the institutional and overall grade point average calculation.  Please provide comment by 3/22/2019.

Posted on: 3/5/2019
Closes on: 3/22/2019
Archived on: 3/30/2019

The Request for Comments has been closed


One of the greatest problems I have observed in new college students lies in their assessment of their own strengths and weaknesses. K-12 grade inflation has not helped them develop an accurate appraisal of their academic talents. Many new freshmen unwittingly take on a program of study for which they are disastrously unprepared, learn a painful lesson during their first or second semester, and eventually find--or are counseled into--a major that better suits them. And it may take the entire semester to learn this lesson, as concrete feedback from instructors early in the term is often unavailable to them. The number of students who have not had an exam or a graded assignment returned to them by the ESPR deadline or even the "W" withdrawal deadline is astounding.

How disheartening it would be for a former pre-med who is killing it in their new marketing major to have a D or F in a freshman biology or chemistry course hanging around his or her neck for another 3 years. And what an expensive albatross, as well, if they had to retake a class that was no longer relevant to their degree program.

I would enthusiastically second Dr. Brown's suggestions below, however, about more carefully scrutinizing the details and including stakeholders in the development of all academic policies. I would add professional advisors to the list of people to consult, as the group of advisors we have on campus have collectively seen every possible situation in which students could find themselves and could provide an excellent forecast of the unintended consequences of this proposal. For example, it may benefit students by reducing the number of financial aid appeals. On the other hand, the policy could potentially be abused to meet scholarship, NCAA, and other eligibility requirements. It may not be appropriate for gen ed classes. It might be wise to limit grade forgiveness to students in their first year or students with fewer than 30 earned hours. Please talk to the people who can help you find the loopholes in this policy before you get to a final draft.

Commentor: Rachel Kellogg
Submitted on: 3/20/2019
On behalf of: Individual Staff

I am not in favor of this policy change. Diminished expectations for what comprises a degree from ETSU would be an outcome of this form of GPA inflation.

Commentor: Deborah Slawson
Submitted on: 3/20/2019
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

I oppose the policy change.  To be brief, my first objection is that the proposal would further inflate GPA's and thereby dimish the value of a degree from ETSU.  My second objection is related to the first in that the proposal would dimish the accomplishments of those students who have come to our institution with ability, work ethic, maturity, etc., and so have done well.  While the proposal in well intentioned, we need always to be careful that what we give to one group is not taken from another.

I worked under a system similar to this at another institution.  At that institution an F was simply removed from the transcript as if the course was never attempted.  At that institution I had students openly attempting to get F's rather than risk receiving C's or D's in my courses.  I suspect the same thing would happen at ETSU.  A student in a highly competive area may do their worst (perhaps skip the final) to avoid getting a C on their transcript.




Commentor: Burl Williams
Submitted on: 3/19/2019
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

While I have no problems with this proposal on its face, I do have some issues with details that are or aren't in the policy as it is currently proposed. Would it be possible to get forgiveness for a grade in their final degree program? If so, doesn’t the current grade replacement policy deal with that (since they would have to take it again to get the grade replaced)? I would prefer that there be some more requirements for what can and cannot be forgiven – e.g. require that only courses outside of the major degree program that the student will graduate with are eligible (or similar). There is still a lot that needs to be considered before this is finalized.

Probably my biggest issue is that this proposed policy was not created with input from some pretty important stakeholders, namely: faculty, the Office of the Registrar, and the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. While I respect the role of SGA in shared governance at the university I feel that it was a bit short-sighted to charge forward and bring this proposal to Academic Council without at least seeking input from these other vital stakeholders.

I am in favor of creating policies that increase the chances that our students progress to graduation, and I think this proposed policy could be a good first step. I think there is merit to this policy, but as-proposed I have reservations. I would really like to see SGA work with faculty and the staff involved in implementing this policy to create something that will improve student success, while promoting learning and meeting the mission of ETSU in the most effective and responsible manner.

Commentor: Patrick Brown
Submitted on: 3/19/2019
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

I oppose the policy change.

It would provide an easy way out for students to "bail" or just walk away from a class after the add/drop period.  Professors are often left in the lurch by such behavior.  Happily, it is much rarer than it was when I started at ETSU 15 years ago.

Honestly, I still see grossly inflated GPA's already among applicants for recognition awards, and sometimes graduate school admission, among students with ETSU undergraduate degrees.  What's my evidence?  I've actually had slacker, inarticulate students in a 3000-level course, only to see their sky-high overall GPA on later paperwork.

Elsewhere an ETSU committee considered reducing the recommended ratio of outside study hours per credit hour from 3:1 to 2:1.  They decided against doing so, probably recognizing that beyond our region our graduates will have to compete with peers from institutions with less of a coddling tradition.

Focus not on the failure, but how you pick yourself up, dust yourself, and try again.


Ken Silver




Commentor: Kenneth Silver
Submitted on: 3/19/2019
On behalf of: Individual Faculty

It is inappropiate to apply grade forgiveness if the student doesn't first re-take the course from ETSU.  As it is written the student could request grade forgiveness for a required course, then either never re-take the course or re-take it at a different institution (which may or may not be as rigorous as the course at ETSU). The GPA is supposed to represent ETSU GPA. There is no requirement that the student has to change their major in the current proposed policy.

It is also unclear why dual enrollment students should be excluded.  It seems more appropiate to forgive a high school student who might have gotten in over their head with a college course, than for a full time college student.

Lastly, I believe that once a course has been re-taken it is perfectly acceptable to forgive an earlier bad performace.  Life happens, our goal should be focus on the level of mastery the students finally obtain, not punish them for bad study habits or other factors that overwhelmed them earlier in their scholastic career.

Commentor: Jonathan Peterson
Submitted on: 3/19/2019
On behalf of: Individual Staff

I am not in favor of this change in policy.  At first blush it appears to be making allowances for students not completing and taking courses in the seriousness and dedication that is warranted in being part of the ETSU family. That is, it is a do-over because they did not do well the first time around. Poor study habits, lack of dedication and time devoted to classes should have consequences, grades being one of them. This seems harsh, but is merely part of life.

This will have no effect on how financial aid Assignment 5 and scholarships are awarded and processed, we should follow suit and not allow this to become policy here. I think this weakens our programs and the efforts that we put into place to have robust and rigorous course material.  


Commentor: Roger Blackwell
Submitted on: 3/19/2019
On behalf of: Individual Staff

With ETSU's very forgiving drop and withdrawal policies, I am very concerned as to why we need this new grade forgiveness policy.  Our current generation of students must learn personal responsibility somehow.  If we (parents, college, etc.) keep cleaning up after them, how will they learn that there are consequences to their actions.  I would be opposed to such a move unless some other rationale were given (impact on scholarships, etc.)

Commentor: Timothy Dills
Submitted on: 3/18/2019
On behalf of: Individual Staff