While the recent decision by the faculty to replace the Gaudino Option with a new pass/fail option can on the whole be regarded as a positive change, we at the Record believe there are some problems that will need to be addressed.
The Record applauds the faculty’s decision to replace the current Gaudino system, which was set to expire at the end of this academic year, with a comparable option. It is important for students to feel as though they can take classes outside of their comfort zones, and having a structure in place ensures a student can fully explore all of the different disciplines the College has to offer and focus on aspects of college life other than GPA.
The new system makes some very positive changes to the old Gaudino option, like increasing the number of classes for which one can earn credit under the option from two to three. The Record commends the decision to alter the rule that students could not Gaudino classes in their first or final semesters at the College to allow students to designate a course as pass/fail at any point in their careers at the College. That students can also wait up to 10 weeks into the semester to designate a course as pass/fail is also an improvement on the old system. Often, it is difficult to tell what a course will be like or how much work it will entail in the first week of the semester, and it is much better that a student will have the ability to wait until he or she knows more about the course and his or her capacity to understand the material before deciding whether to designate the course as pass/fail.
An additional benefit of the new system is that the standard for a pass, a D-minus, is not dependent on an individual’s performance level. The new system levels the playing field, measuring all students by the same ruler. Moreover, it could be nice for students to occasionally have a class in which they can put in less work. The College is a challenging academic institution, and the opportunity to take a class that does not count towards one’s GPA is very important. However, there are some detrimental aspects to having the standard be a D-minus. We at the Record think it is important that the faculty and the Committee on Educational Policy take into account how much work is actually necessary to get a D-minus and determine if it really considers that amount to be an appropriate requirement to pass.
Another problem we had with the changes is the fact that fifth classes are treated the same as the regular four classes per semester required for graduation. Some students enjoy taking fifth classes without having to worry about the letter grade, yet under the new system, fifth classes would also count towards the three allotted pass/fail courses. This is contrary to the spirit of exploration. Fifth classes are a good outlet to explore new disciplines, and the ability to take as many fifth classes as one wants pass/fail is vital to this opportunity. Fifth classes should be exempt from the allotted three courses that one can designate as pass/fail.
Another suggestion for the new system is taken from the old Gaudino system, in which students had the option to accept the grade on their transcript rather than take a G. We feel as though students should still be afforded this option, so they can take the grade if they want, but that class would still count as one of the three allotted pass/fail designations. In other words, after knowing the letter grade, the student should have the option to accept that grade or have his or her transcript display only the pass. This would still allow for students to take a class totally outside of their comfort zones, while also benefitting their GPAs if they find they enjoy and are good at the subject.