Pitzer announces details of spring pass/no credit grading policy; students can request letter grade until May 15

A pool is surrounded by furniture and buildings, with mountains in the background.
Pitzer College announced details of its emergency pass/no credit grading policy for the spring 2020 semester. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

Pitzer College students will have until May 15 — the last day of spring 2020 exams, and before some grades may be finalized — to request a letter grade for the semester, Faculty Executive Committee Chair Paul Faulstich announced in an email to students Friday.

In response to COVID-19, Pitzer students will be graded on a pass/no credit basis by default for the semester, with a notation of “Satisfactory Pandemic” (SP) or “No Record Pandemic” (NRP) appearing on their transcripts, unless they request a letter grade. Any grade above a D- will qualify as SP — a variation from Pitzer’s normal pass/no credit policy, which mandates earning the equivalent of a C to pass.

SP grades will be accepted for majors, minors, graduation requirements and honors this semester.

The general grading policy was approved during a Pitzer faculty meeting April 2, according to an email from Faulstich to Pitzer faculty last week — a group of faculty had been refining the language in the interim. The policy was not announced to students until Friday.

Some Pitzer students had hoped that the school’s grading policies would be more lenient, with Pitzer Student Senate recommending a universal A policy based on a survey of Pitzer students.

Students also showed support for a universal A/A- policy or an A/A-/no credit policy in the poll.

In a separate survey conducted by a group called 5C Students for Grade Equity, in which approximately 36 percent of Pitzer students participated, 52 percent of respondents supported a policy similar to the one put in place. 

But 83 percent supported a B+ grade floor, 71 percent supported grade inflation, 58 percent expressed support for a universal pass policy without a letter grade option and 54 percent supported a universal pass policy with a letter grade option. A universal pass/fail option with no letter grade option was less popular, with 50 percent support.

Harvey Mudd College announced Friday that it will continue awarding letter grades by default, but students will be able to elect pass/no credit grading after seeing their final semester grades.

Students’ home institutions’ grading policies will travel with them, Mudd Dean of the Faculty Lisa Sullivan said, meaning that Pitzer students taking HMC classes will be subject to Pitzer’s grading policies.

The other schools have not yet announced revised grading policies for the semester, but a similar policy to Pitzer’s is under consideration at Pomona College.

ASPC voted April 5 to endorse, in order of preference, a universal A/A- policy; universal pass; universal pass with opt-in letter grading, with the minimum letter grade being that which the student would have received as of April 10, and a universal pass policy with opt-in letter grading, without a grade floor. 

Pomona students also mounted a letter-writing campaign to professors to advocate for a universal A/A- policy.

ASCMC also endorsed a set of grading policy recommendations April 5, which included “some form or combination of [a] grade floor and/or grade inflation. They also recommended that CMC allow students to decide to take classes credit/no credit without faculty discretion, and to extend the credit/no credit deadline until after students have learned their final grades. 

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