Harvey Mudd College students will have the option to decide to have their courses graded pass/no credit after learning their final letter grades this semester, in response to COVID-19-related disruptions, HMC Dean of the Faculty Lisa Sullivan announced via email Friday.
After receiving final grades May 22, students will have until May 26 to request a pass/no credit grade. Faculty will have until May 28 to change any grades to pass/no credit.
All instructors will honor requests for pass/no credit grading, Sullivan said, a change from Mudd’s previous policy that pass/no credit grades would be granted at faculty discretion.
“These measures work to identify a middle ground, recognizing that for some students letter grades may help assure a return to good academic standing or serve scholarship or graduate school objectives,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan added that grading policies across the 5Cs will travel with the colleges’ students — Mudd faculty will honor grading policies that the other colleges implement when grading their students in HMC classes. Classes in Claremont moved online last week due to the pandemic, as most students were sent home several weeks ago.
All faculty also have the option to grade entire classes pass/no credit if there aren’t enough opportunities to assess students’ work for letter grades, Sullivan also said.
The HMC Department Chairs Committee and Faculty Executive Committee unanimously endorsed the policy for the spring semester “unless extended,” Sullivan added.
Some HMC students expressed a preference for a more-far reaching policy.
Thirty-five percent of Mudd students participated in a survey organized by a group called 5C Students for Grade Equity. In the survey, 78 percent of Mudd respondents supported a universal pass/fail policy with a letter grade option, similar to Pitzer’s policy. The survey did not provide an option for the opt-in pass/no credit policy that Mudd has implemented.
Other popular options among HMC students were a B+ grade floor, which received 63 percent support, universal pass with a letter grade option, with 60.6 percent support, and grade inflation, with 54 percent support.
Some Mudd students argued that a system with optional pass/no credit, rather than universal pass/no credit, privileges some more than others. Becca Blyn HM ’22, who circulated a petition for a delayed optional pass/no credit grading system on behalf of her residence hall, but personally endorsed a universal system, argued that an opt-in system “is at times inequitable for people.”
“It can be disadvantageous for those who are forced to opt into optional pass/no credit, versus people who are students who are privileged enough to be able to have a good learning environment and everything, and can afford to get good grades,” Blyn told TSL last week.
But ASHMC President Kyle Grace HM ’21 believes the new policy is “probably the best solution.”
“I know it’s a policy that affects all people differently and somewhat disproportionately, but there wasn’t a way to create the best outcome for everyone,” Grace told TSL via message. “I think this decision really was made to try [to] be the most flexible for students in [these] pretty terrible times.”
Grace added that he had many discussions with students and faculty regarding grading, and that many were concerned about the ramifications of a universal pass/no credit policy.
“There were a [ton] of students who were scared about not being able to get grades they worked for this semester or to get grades they needed to graduate or get off academic probation,” he said.
Maria Heeter SC ’22 is an economics major from Dover, New Hampshire. She is currently an editor-at-large and previously served as TSL’s fall 2020 editor-in-chief.