Optional Pass/D/F policy implemented for Spring 2020 semester

(Marya Kuratova / McDaniel Free Press).

On March 26, an email was sent to the McDaniel community by Provost Julia Jasken about a new optional grading policy that will be implemented for the Spring 2020 undergraduate semester.

This policy will allow students to adjust the grading of a course to a Pass/D/Fail scale as opposed to the standard grading scale. This policy was implemented after a vote from the franchised faculty in order to uphold the First Principles and “to place students at the center of a humane environment… given the challenges we know students may face in this new modality.”

With this change, grades from A+ through C- will be recorded as a “P” for Pass, and students will receive credit for the course with no effect on their GPA. Grades from D+ through D- will be recorded as a “D,” will receive credit for the course, and will be factored into the GPA as a 1.0. F grades will be recorded as an “F,” will not receive credit for the course, and will be factored into the GPA as a 1.0.

This policy is entirely optional for students, and may be opted in on a course-by-course basis. All decisions must be made by April 24, and once made may not be reversed.

Students were reminded to keep several factors in mind when making these decisions. Graduating seniors must still maintain a cumulative and major GPA of 2.0 to be eligible for graduation. Additionally, if students are retaking a course in order to improve a previous grade, a “Pass” will replace the prior grade and will count towards graduation requirements, and neither the pass nor the prior grade will be factored into GPA.

Students may not opt into this policy for the ENG 1101 course, as students must earn a grade of C or higher for College requirements. Education majors and minors may not opt in to this policy for courses required by that accredited program, as they must earn grades of a C or higher. All other courses, including Honors courses, are eligible for the Pass/D/Fail system.

Students interested in applying this policy to one or more of their courses are encouraged to consult with their academic advisers or deans before making a decision. To select this policy, students must fill out a form located in the email and on the COVID-19 Updates site and submit that to the Registrar’s Office by April 24.

Jasken ended her email thanking students for their “resilience and flexibility during these extraordinary times.”

Many students will be happy to hear about these changes, as about one week ago a Change.org petition began circulating, asking the administration to allow students to be able to implement an optional pass/fail policy to their Spring 2020 courses.

The petition, started by student Anthony Gaskins III, suggested “for pass-fail grading to be optional as pass-fail does not impact one’s GPA as significantly as a graded class potentially would” and cited several schools such as Penn State,  Carnegie Mellon, and Columbia as having done the same.

The petition had received 857 signatures from concerned students, parents, and community members before declaring a victory. Jasken’s email did not mention whether this petition had any influence on the administration’s decision, and she could not be reached for comment.