Pitzer switches to universal pass/no record grading, passes to count as As for GPA

A cafe overlooks a pool at sunset.
Pitzer College voted Wednesday to move to a universal pass/no record policy that makes each passed class worth a 4.0 for students’ grade point averages. (HuxleyAnn Huefner • The Student Life)

In a revote on this semester’s grading policy, Pitzer College faculty voted Wednesday for a universal pass/no record system that makes each passed class worth a 4.0 — the equivalent of an A in a normal semester — for students’ grade point averages.

Though the school initially adopted pass/no record grading with a letter grade option April 4, concerted student activism led 17 professors to call an emergency meeting of the faculty to reconsider the original decision, according to an email to Pitzer faculty obtained by TSL.

Students who finish with a D- or higher in their courses will receive a “Satisfactory Pandemic” grade on their transcript and a 4.0 in the class, according to an email from Faculty Executive Committee chair Paul Faulstich. Those who finish with a grade lower than a D- will have the course stricken from their transcript, as if they had dropped the class before the drop deadline.

Pitzer’s policy appears to be the first COVID-19 grading system in the country that will give undergraduate students the equivalent of As in all passed classes. 

The new policy effectively straddles the line between universal pass/no record, which Pomona College adopted April 17, and a “universal A” policy, which students have argued would compensate for their inability to work to improve their grades if letter grades were removed.

The Pitzer First Generation Club led the advocacy for a universal A and was joined by the student group “Nobody Fails at Pitzer.”

In a statement co-signed by 19 Pitzer and 5C student organizations, the club demanded “the removal of SP/NRP/opt-in grading policy and put into effect a universal A policy,” urged the other 5Cs to adopt a universal A and asked that faculty express “flexibility and compassion towards coursework,” while not requiring students to disclose trauma or difficult living conditions.

“I still support universal As,” Jorj Chisam-Majid PZ ’20 told TSL earlier this month. “I don’t support anything that is P/NC with optional grading because it creates an inequity.”

Scripps College faculty are also set to discuss universal A grading, among other proposals, in a faculty meeting Thursday, but administrators warned they’d ask the school’s board of trustees to veto any universal A policy if passed.

Students at Claremont McKenna College and Harvey Mudd College have the option to view their final grades before opting for a credit/no credit or a pass/no credit grading system, respectively. 

Students pushing for universal policies say that making letter grades optional creates inequities between students who have the time and resources to succeed academically during the pandemic and those who face more significant challenges.

“Your peers who are in the most dire situations — who are still working hard, even if the quality and quantity of their work may not be the same as if they were on campus and supported by the college — they don’t deserve to take a P and you get an A,” Nay Amuzie PO ’22 told TSL earlier this month. “If they were fully supported and on campus they could have earned an A. But with this pandemic, inequalities faced at home have heightened.” 

Some, like Alfredo Moreno PO ’22, said after Pomona’s decision that while a universal policy was better than opt-in, the possibility of “no record” still poses an issue for those in difficult circumstances.

“I think that students can easily fall through the cracks,” Moreno said. 

Lily Ross contributed reporting.

This article was last updated April 29, 2020 at 4:14 p.m.

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