SGA Sound Off: Pass/D/Fail by 2012-2013?

Maybe this is just me… but I have had dreams of taking classes Pass/Fail almost as much as I dream of the joy of the end of semesters. The benefits are endless: I finally could take Music Theory or heck, maybe even a computer science class! If we truly are a liberal arts institution, why not enable this measure that will even further facilitate the ability of students to embrace creativity and exploration — without the fear of ‘failure’ by destroying their GPA?

We’d finally be joining the ranks of a myriad of schools that offer this option. Schools such as MIT, Amherst, The University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Barnard, William & Mary, Virginia Tech, and UNC Chapel Hill (who even created a video demonstrating how to take a class this way) all boast pass/fail options.

The Student Government Association has repeatedly tried to usher Pass/Fail into action here at Middlebury.

Unfortunately, though the resolution readily passed through the SGA Senate, the Student Educational Affairs Committee (SEAC), and Educational Affairs Committee, it failed to pass through the last step — Faculty Council with a mere simple majority. A simple majority vote by the Faculty Council would finalize the deal and send it to Old Chapel for an implementation plan.

Cook Commons Senator Michael Polebaum ‘12, however, is reviving the fight and has my full support! The proposal would allow for a Pass/D/Fail system that enables students to take 2-4 courses Pass/D/Fail during a student’s time here at Middlebury. The courses must be outside of a student’s major and cannot count towards distribution requirements (a similar policy to peer institutions). The professor teaching the course would not know if a student is taking the class Pass/Fail, and the student would require a signature by their adviser in order to take the class Pass/D/Fail.

The vote on the Pass/D/Fail resolution will be happening this Sunday, 7pm, Crest Room (and remember, they’re open meetings so feel free to come by), so be sure and stay tuned.

Do you have any opinions regarding SGA’s support of this resolution? Do you think Pass/D/Fail is a good idea for Middlebury?


7 thoughts on “SGA Sound Off: Pass/D/Fail by 2012-2013?

  1. I think it’s a great idea. Middlebury is already pretty reasonable at allowing students to explore areas outside of their major, but for students who just can’t let go of grades (or need a certain GPA for med school or whatever), this could encourage students to step outside of their comfort zones and take a class in something they want to learn about but aren’t sure they’d be great at.

    I hope the SGA will communicate with the other stakeholders involved so that we can address concerns from the faculty, etc., before the vote.

  2. Seriously? It wouldn’t count towards distribution requirements? Why not? Can we please get over the out-dated and unnecessary complications of the distribution requirements already…?

    Okay, I realize that there is too much inertia and too much ideological entrenchment in the Middlebury leadership to actually ever change, remove, or improve the distribution requirements… but can we at least make the pass/fail system be another way of fulfilling them?

    A “pass” from this system would entail a “C” or better… if you get a “C” or better taking a class currently, you get a distribution requirement. Yet a “pass” would not let you get a distribution requirement. What gives? Why not make the policy: “A Pass will fulfill distribution requirements, while a D or fail grade will not”?

    If your argument is “well, peer institutions…” PLEASE. Amherst doesn’t even have distribution requirements, something I always love to point out, yet this fact is always resoundly shut down by anyone I mention it to. So please. If Middlebury is so unique and superior, it can enact the pass/fail system in a superior way.

    I know I’m on my soapbox here, and maybe this isn’t an issue to anyone else at all, but this system has really irked me from the moment I set foot on campus and I find it bothersome that nothing is ever done about it.

  3. @Zach, Thank you for your comment. I absolutely agree that understanding the faculty opinion is crucial to ensuring the resolutions success. Senator Polebaum, and President Vin Recca’s cabinet are all working with faculty members to understand and address the objections.

    @John, thank you as well for your comments. I understand the frustration with distribution requirements, it is a system I also have found frustrating (AAL?! really?!), and have promoted the EAC revisiting. I appreciate your opinion that a Pass should count to distributions – I would invite you to come to the SGA meeting Sunday and discuss this when the resolution is brought out on the table. There’s always room for revision and discussion!

  4. if this pass/fail system were extended to the abroad schools we could also worry less about the grades in a tough but rewarding literature class where it is impossible for a foreigner to read all of the material in the original.

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