Faculty senate approves new grading system for Spring 2020

Faculty senate voted this afternoon to approve a new grading structure for the spring semester. Courses will still be graded, but students have the option of making two courses pass/fail within 10 days of receiving the final grades. 

Grades must be posted by May 28 at 5pm. Students must consult with their advisors before switching to pass/fail. The motion passed with 34 of 42 senators voting in favor of the new structure. 

The administration has considered changing the grading policy after shifting courses online for the entirety of the spring semester due to the coronavirus pandemic. Several universities have let students change all of their courses to pass/fail, and others have made it mandatory that all courses are pass/fail.

The report to faculty senate explains Calvin’s system as a middle ground, allowing relief for struggling students while maintaining the motivation of a letter grade. A D- or higher will count as passing.

Recently, a student-led petition circulated among campus, asking that all courses shift to pass/fail. The petition got over 1400 signatures.

Student senate President Emerson Silvernail said that the committee, chaired by political science Professor Micah Watson and President Michael Le Roy were receptive of student input and were aware of the petition.

“While this was not our preferred solution, we understand that there are a variety of interests to consider right now,” Silvernail said. “What mattered most to me personally is that the administration did not wait any longer to make a decision.”

According to Silvernail, student senate ideally wanted the student body to have the option to make all of their courses pass/fail, an opinion he voiced in the faculty senate meeting where the vote took place. Student senate does not have any voting power in faculty senate.

According to Watson, there was disagreement in the committee over the final plan: some thought it was too strict; others thought it gave students too much leeway. Watson noted that mandatory pass/fail classes would be disadvantaging to students in the health sciences looking to apply to graduate school.

“We know some students will be unhappy with this, but they should know that we as a faculty want them to finish this semester strong. We want this grade to mean something and be something to take pride in,” Watson said.

This story has been updated with quotes and additional information.