Update on Grading Policy
| by Jeff Cason, Sujata Moorti, and Suzanne Gurland
We write to update you on the status of the College’s grading policy for this semester. This morning, the faculty voted in favor of an Opt-In Credit/No-Credit, course-by-course system. For spring 2020 only, you will have the option to take as many of your current courses as you wish on a Credit/No-Credit basis. If you don’t choose Credit/No-Credit for a particular course, that course will remain letter-graded. You have until May 8 to invoke Credit/No-Credit for any of your courses, using an electronic form provided by the Registrar’s Office. You will have a window of time from May 9 to May 19 in which you may revoke any Credit/No-Credit decisions. There will be a notation on the spring 2020 section of all transcripts conveying to outside audiences that a “Credit” should be interpreted as a reasonable response to these extraordinary circumstances, and not as indicating diminished rigor.
The most significant changes from our previous communication, in summary, are that Credit/No-Credit replaces Pass/D/Fail, and the deadline for revoking the Credit/No-Credit option has been extended.
Explaining the Faculty Vote
The faculty decided that the extraordinary circumstances of the current semester merited an Opt-In Credit/No-Credit, course-by-course system. This policy maintains flexibility and choice. It allows you to make decisions very late in the semester so you can make them with full information, and so that as your priorities and circumstances change, your choices can, too.
This decision will please some of you, but not others. We heard from many students who had compelling reasons for wanting this kind of per-course opt-in grading system, and just as many with equally compelling reasons for wanting a universal binary system. We have read your emails carefully, consulted the documents you sent, and taken your reasoning to heart. We have spoken with many of you. You complicated our thinking in all the best ways that we relish as academics.
Faculty discussed at length which policy best succeeds in leveling the playing field for all students. Unfortunately, none of them does or can. The opt-in system treats all students equally as young adults who are best positioned to evaluate their own circumstances and set their own priorities for this semester. We are also aware that students are concerned how their grades this semester might affect future job prospects and graduate school applications. Given the faculty conversations we’ve had on grading policies, we are confident that our faculty colleagues will be supportive of our students. Our colleagues in CCI continue to strongly support students in their career and post-graduate plans, including advising students on how to discuss the grading policy with potential employers, if necessary. Meanwhile, rest assured that employers and graduate programs are deeply aware of the extraordinary circumstances facing students this semester and remain committed to the exceptional Middlebury talent pool.
Who makes changes in grading policy?
Grading is “major educational policy” and is therefore under the authority of the faculty and can only officially be changed through a faculty vote. Normally, faculty votes entail a long process—the process is designed to ensure ample debate and deliberation. Often the process of making a change to such policies can take several months. Given the urgency of the situation, Faculty Council decided that faculty should meet online every week to address this and other urgent issues.
Several faculty forwarded a variety of possible grading policies. There was an interim meeting scheduled to provide an opportunity for open debate and discussion, and the meeting to vote on the grading policy was held this morning. The Opt-In Credit/No-Credit policy they voted in is binding and it governs the grading policy for this semester.
It has been inspiring to see how this issue has mobilized a range of students with a range of opinions to share and points to make, and you’ve deepened our understanding of the important issues.
We’re wishing you all good health.
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty
Dean of Curriculum