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All Spring classes to be graded on S/Cr/Nc scale

All Spring term courses will be graded on a Satisfactory/Credit /No Credit (S/Cr/Nc) basis in light of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a campus-wide email from Dean of the College Beverly Nagel on Friday, April 3. This means that only S/Cr/NC grades will be recorded on student transcripts for the term, but courses taken under such grading will count toward major requirements.

“Given the number of variables in the teaching and learning environment beyond our direct control, the faculty concluded that making all courses mandatory S/CR/NC was the fairest way to approach grading this term,” wrote Nagel. 

The policy change comes after peer institutions such as Williams, Wellesley and Bowdoin adopted universal Pass/Fail grading systems. Others, like Pomona and Amherst, chose opt-in policies that relaxed the schools’ typical restrictions on flexible grading. Both the Carleton Student Association (CSA) and Education and Curriculum Committee (ECC) sought student input on a possible change to grading systems prior to the final decision. 

On Monday, March 23, CSA President Andrew Farias announced via email to the student body that the CSA had “been in discussion about advocating for a pass/fail or universal pass grading system during the Spring term to ensure that grading is as equitable as possible.” Attached to the email was an FAQ about several grading policies—including Universal Pass, Universal Pass/Fail, and Optional Pass/Fail—and a survey for student input. Following internal debate and review of survey responses, CSA decided to advocate for a mandatory S/Cr/Nc policy with an option to petition for letter grading in exceptional circumstances. 

At 9:15 p.m. on Sunday, March 29, Farias sent another email to the student body announcing that the ECC was considering two grading change options. Option A was “to relax the rules for students electing to take courses S/Cr/Nc.” Option B was “to designate all courses for the term mandatory S/Cr/NC.” Students were asked to comment on their policy preferences on a Moodle forum prior to 1 p.m the following day, when the ECC was expected to meet. A similar Moodle forum was opened to faculty members for their input. 

The student Moodle forum garnered over 700 responses, with participants divided between the two options. ECC Co-Chair Dev Gupta closed the forum at 10:10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 31 with a message to the student body. She noted that the ECC read through the entire forum, and that short input period was a result of needing to finalize the policy before the start of the term.  

“Thanks for your thoughtful and impassioned responses,” wrote Gupta. “These are complicated choices, with no clear answer that will satisfy everyone.”

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