Senate works to extend pass/fail deadline
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, December 6, 2012 08:12
The Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate last week approved a project that would extend the university’s pass/fail deadline until 10 weeks into the semester for all students.
Senators Ethan Finkelstein, a freshman, and Jessie Serrino, a sophomore, submitted the project proposal.
The current pass/fail policy gives upperclassmen students until five weeks into the semester to choose to take a course pass/fail rather than for a letter grade.
The Educational Policy Committee (EPC) earlier this semester approved a 10-week pass/fail deadline for freshmen, according to Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Jean Herbert, a member of the EPC. She said the EPC did not vote to extend the deadline from five to 10 weeks for upperclassmen, as she had suggested.
“EPC made the recommendation to the faculty, and the faculty voted and approved that the pass/fail deadline would be extended for first-year students only to match the 10-week drop deadline that first-year students have,” Herbert said.
The senators hope to meet with members of the EPC, including Herbert, in the spring so that the extended deadline may be approved and implemented by next academic year.
Students showed interest in extending the pass/fail deadline when the initiative was proposed in a Senate survey sent out to students earlier this semester, according to Finkelstein.
“From what I understand from when I talked to the students, it’s definitely something students are more interested in because they feel that the current deadline doesn’t give them enough time to realize how well they’re doing in a class to know if they want to take it pass/fail,” he said.
Herbert explained that there are advantages to extending the current pass/fail deadline.
“I don’t really like it when students withdraw from a course, losing the credit that they’ve spent a lot of time working on,” she said. “I think it just might help students stay in classes instead of withdrawing.”
Since midterms often do not happen until the eighth week of the semester, Herbert said, students have in the past petitioned for an extension of the pass/fail deadline. Students are surprised by the grade that they receive and learn that they are not doing as well in a certain class as they might have initially thought, according to Herbert.
“So the five-week deadline might be premature, in my opinion,” she said.
Herbert added that this is the first time a formal proposal to change the deadline for upperclassmen has been discussed among faculty members since they decided on the original five-week deadline.
David Hammer, professor and co-chair of the Department of Education and member of the EPC, expressed reservations about extending the pass/fail deadline for upperclassmen.
“I’m worried about how much many Tufts students play the game of trying to maximize a GPA rather than get a substantive education, and I’m a little bit worried that our tweaking and fiddling with rules like this sort of play into that game,” he said. “I’d rather students focus on the substance of what they’re learning in their courses and less on the GPA.”
He believes that the pressure put on students to increase their GPA is responsible for these attitudes.
“I don’t think it’s the students’ fault, but I think it’s a large systemic attitude and orientation, and I’m kind of reluctant to be participating in that,” Hammer said.
Hammer added, however, that he sees the advantages of the extension for freshmen.
“On the other hand, I think it’s a nice thing that will help freshmen stay in courses that they might otherwise drop because they’re worried about what it will do to their GPA,” he said.