College offers Pass/D/Fail option for all classes in spring semester

By BOCHU DING

BENJY RENTON
On Tuesday, the Registrar’s Office sent an email to all students with an electronic form to declare Pass/D/Fail.

Middlebury students can invoke the Pass/D/Fail option for as many courses as they choose once classes resume remotely on March 30, according to an email sent to students by Provost Jeff Cason and Dean of the Faculty Sujata Moorti on Monday night. 

The college will suspend all normal Pass/D/Fail restrictions during the spring semester, meaning any course declared Pass/D/Fail this spring will still count towards major, minor and distribution requirements. In addition, such classes will not count towards the two Pass/D/Fail courses students are typically allowed, or the limit of five classes that have non-standard grading. 

Students have until May 1 to request the Pass/D/Fail option for any course, only 10 days before classes end for the semester. Once declared, though, students will not be able to revoke their decision.

Will you be invoking the Pass/D/Fail option this semester?

Regardless of grading status, professors are expected to report letter grades for all students. All grades above C- will automatically convert to P for those who invoke the option. 

“These discussions were spurred by student and faculty emails as well as our desire to acknowledge the radically new teaching and learning experience we are going to traverse,” Moorti said to The Campus in an email. “We consulted as well with peer institutions on how they were addressing similar concerns.”

Some schools, such as MIT, have implemented a school-wide pass/fail system. Instead, the college is giving students the option to opt in because many students — including those applying to fellowships, graduate programs and jobs — still wanted regular grades, according to Moorti. 

BENJY RENTON
The college is giving students the option to opt in because many students still wanted regular grades, according to Dean of the Faculty Sujata Moorti.

Sophie Smith ’21, a Molecular Biology and Biochemistry major, said she is not considering the Pass/D/Fail option for this reason.

“As a pre-med student, there is a heavy emphasis placed on grades and GPA during the application process,” she said.

The Health Professions team at the Center for Careers and Internships was unable to offer guidance to students on how such a grading system would play out during the medical school application process. “The short answer is that we don’t know, as the conversations between pre-health advisors and health professions programs are just beginning,” an email to Health Professions students read. 

Smith said she would not take advantage of the Pass/D/Fail option unless there was a certain response from the team that it would not impact the application process. 

Claire Cousineau ’20.5, a Chinese major, is unsure how or whether she will utilize the Pass/D/Fail option, but said that the option itself will relieve pressure during a stressful time for students.

“This is an intense situation and having the pressure taken off to perform under extreme stress and uncertainty is a huge relief,” Cousineau said.

Nick Smith ’23, who is undeclared but leaning toward a major in music, said he is considering taking multiple classes Pass/D/Fail, depending on how the semester goes. 

“I’m planning on taking at least one, since I missed some deadlines last week because I wanted to be with friends,” Smith said. “I might do it for others too if the classes are hard to learn online.”

On Tuesday, the Registrar’s Office sent an email to all students with an electronic form to declare Pass/D/Fail.

Cason and Moorti also recommended to faculty that coursework continue asynchronously as students disperse across the country and around the world. It also pointed students to a resource page for transitioning to online learning prepared by the office of Digital Learning and Inquiry (DLINQ) set to go live in the next few days.  

The college arrived at these decisions in working with an ad hoc academic continuity group, according to an email sent to faculty. In addition to Cason and Moorti, the body comprises faculty administrators LeRoy Graham, associate provost for planning, and Amy Collier, associate provost for digital learning as well as elected representatives Rick Bunt and Joyce Mao from Faculty Council, Suzanne Gurland from the Educational Affairs Committee (EAC), Michelle McCauley from the Strategy Committee, and Daniel Silva from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

This is a developing story and will be updated accordingly. Managing Editor James Finn ’20.5 contributed reporting.

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