An academic dean’s advice on giving INCs

At the end of the semester I typically hear from instructors and students who have questions on the subject of granting/requesting a grade of Incomplete for a class. This post is intended to offer clarity on this process.

For facultyWhen is an INC appropriate?

Recognize that sometimes giving an INC is helpful but, particularly this semester, it may be more of a hindrance to students than a help.

  • You do not have to agree to give a student an INC. It is at your discretion and you want to remember that this likely means that you will end up working with that student during the break and possibly into next semester (and beyond).
  • You should not give a student an INC without their knowledge and without a written agreement of the work to be completed and a deadline.
  • INC grades are counted as Fs toward a student’s GPA until they are resolved, which means that INCs can have a negative effect on a student’s GPA and academic standing in the short run if they would have received a higher grade based on work already completed.
  • If they are not resolved by the end of the following semester, INC grades are converted to IFs. Faculty can still opt to let students finish the course after the grade has changed to IF.
  • It is unadvisable to give a student an INC grade if they have not already completed more than half of the work of your class.
  • Students should be passing your class at the time you agree to give them a grade of INC.

For students Tips for requesting an INC

  • Make sure you have a clear sense of the assignments, quizzes, exams, projects, or other work you have left to complete for the class.
  • Use a calendar to plan out how you will complete this work. Draft a plan to complete each task and create a clear and reasonable timeline.
  • When you reach out to your instructor to ask if they would be open to giving you an INC grade, you should include your work plan.
  • When possible, plan to finish your INC prior to the start of the following semester – having a full semester of classes in addition to an INC is very challenging.
  • If you have questions about whether an INC is the best option for you, speak with your academic advisor or an academic dean.
  • Remember that sometimes it’s better to finish the class as best you can during the semester and move on. Many INCs become IFs and students do not finish them.

Official INC Policy 
(from page 25 of the Academic Regulations):

“Students who are unable to complete course requirements within the allotted time because of severe medical or personal problems may request a grade of Incomplete from the instructor of the course. Normally, incomplete grades are warranted only if a student is passing the course at the time of the request and if the course requirements can be completed by the end of the following semester.”

The Academic Regulations further stipulate that for each Incomplete grade given a written agreement should be kept in the department office that includes the following:

  1. The percentage of work completed during the semester by the student,
  2. The grade earned by the student on the completed work during the semester,
  3. A description of the work that remains to be completed,
  4. A description of the method by which the student is to complete the unfinished work, and
  5. The date by which the work is to be completed.

Essentially, an INC represents a contract between instructor and student and it should be entered into with clear boundaries on both sides. I do encourage both parties to be open to renegotiate the terms of the INC under the appropriate circumstances.

By Jacqueline Brousseau-Pereira
Jacqueline Brousseau-Pereira