Pitzer to implement automatic pass/no credit grading with letter grades optional

The outside of Pitzer College's dining hall surrounded by cacti.
Pitzer College will be implementing an automatic pass/no credit grading policy for the semester, with an option for students to receive a letter grade. (Stella Favaro • The Student Life)

Pitzer College will implement an automatic pass/no credit grading policy for the semester, with an option for students to receive a letter grade, Faculty Executive Committee Chair Paul Faulstich said in an email to faculty Friday that was obtained by TSL.

Under the policy, approved at a faculty meeting Thursday, students will receive a grade of either “Emergency Satisfactory” (SEM) or “No Record COVID” (NRC) by default, but will have the option to instead choose to receive a letter grade, according to the email.

The policy’s language is not yet finalized, according to Faulstich’s email, and is being refined by a group of professors. It has not yet been announced to Pitzer students.

Classes at the 5Cs moved online this week due to the coronavirus pandemic, and most students were sent home several weeks ago.

The policy does not go as far as some Pitzer students had hoped it would. Pitzer Student Senate recommended on Tuesday a universal-A policy, which would automatically grant all students A’s regardless of class performance, based on a survey in which over 40 percent of respondents supported the policy in each round of voting.

Other popular proposals included a universal-A/A- policy or an A/A-/no credit policy.

Maya Kurkhill PZ ’23, a member of Pitzer’s Academic Planning Committee, argued against an opt-in pass/no credit system in an email to students Thursday.

“Although some of us may be able to keep working for the grade, a lot of us don’t have that option,” Kurkhill said in the email. “An opt-in [pass/no credit system] may hurt students who don’t have the resources to continue the most, as they are penalized in relations to their peers who look more competitive.

The other Claremont Colleges have been divided on how to proceed, and it’s unclear if they will follow Pitzer’s model.

Pomona College’s Dean of the College Robert Gaines said at a faculty meeting Wednesday that “I would hope we can be consortial and collegial as possible,” but that the school was not planning to adopt a universal-A proposal.

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In an email to students, Isaac Cui PO ’20, ASPC’s vice president of academic affairs, said Pomona administrators and faculty were considering a similar policy to the one Pitzer plans to implement, or extending the pass/no credit deadline or instituting universal pass/no credit without a possibility to opt for a letter grade.

A survey of the student body by a group called 5C Students for Grade Equity, which was working in conjunction with ASPC, found that a universal B+ to A grade floor and grade inflation, as well as a proposal to extend seniors’ thesis deadlines, had received broad support as of Monday, before the survey closed, organizers said via email.

Students like Kyle Davis PZ ’21 were calling for a universal pass/no credit or universal A/A- policy because of the obstacles that leaving campus has presented.

Davis told TSL he’s been busy grocery shopping, paying rent and focusing on helping his brother, a bartender who was recently laid off. 

While finishing his full course load, Davis has also begun searching for a job. He’s considering taking his Zoom classes in the afternoon, sleeping and then waking up for an overnight shift to stock shelves or do inventory. 

“I’m really, really trying not to put school on the backburner, but it’s been hard,” he said.

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This article was last updated April 4 at 3:35 p.m.

This article was updated April 4 at 3:29 p.m.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated Faulstich sent the email Saturday and the faculty meeting took place Friday. In fact, Faulstich sent the email Friday and the meeting took place Thursday. A previous version of this article also said 40 percent of Pitzer students supported the universal A. Forty percent of poll respondents supported it. TSL regrets these errors.
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