Committee for Undergrad Ed Continues Discussion of Pass/Fail Deadline

The Committee on Undergraduate Education continued an ongoing discussion about extending the pass/fail deadline later into the semester at its monthly meeting on Wednesday.

The conversation was first brought to CUE by members of the Undergraduate Council Education Committee last month, as one of four initiatives the group is pursuing this semester. On Wednesday, CUE considered the benefits and drawbacks of pushing the pass/fail deadline to the seventh Monday of the semester.

Currently, the deadline to make a class pass/fail falls on the fifth Monday of the semester.

"Looking at our peer institutions suggests that our deadline is far too early," said Dhruv P. Goyal ’16, chair of the UC’s Education Committee. At the CUE meeting last month, Goyal cited universities like Princeton that allow students to change their courses to pass/fail until the ninth week of classes.

Other members of the committee argued against extending the deadline because students might lose sight of learning outcomes and focus only on their letter grade in a course. Those members suggested instead that students should use the pass/fail option to take academic risks in courses they aren’t otherwise comfortable taking.

Adding to this argument, Classics professor Richard F. Thomas said that he thinks undergraduates do not understand what a pass/fail represents on a student’s record. He argued that the College should encourage a greater awareness among undergraduates that having a pass/fail course on a transcript will not hurt a student’s application to graduate school or medical school.

“We need to educate some of the students on these realities," Thomas said.

According to Goyal, he and the UC Education Committee also want to address the needs of students under personal pressure.

"We are addressing two types of students,” Goyal said.  “One, those students who feel like they are going out of their comfort zones, and two, students who are under extreme circumstances."

This turn in discussion initiated a conversation about whether or not the Administrative Board should allow for a personal extension of the pass/fail deadline for these types of cases. Some members of the committee agreed that students facing extreme circumstances should be able to appeal to the Administrative Board, believing that such a change would not significantly increase the number of students who would try switching their courses to pass/fail.

The committee also discussed whether students should be awarded credentials for completing all of the concentration requirements in multiple departments akin to a double major at other universities.

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at meg.bernhard@thecrimson.com. Follow her on twitter @Meg_Bernhard.

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