What’s The Deal With “Pass/Fail”?

Welcome to the new “normal”, Saint Anselm College. There isn’t one among us that hasn’t been seriously affected by this crisis, and the unifying adaptation we have all had to make is fundamentally changing the way we learn and move closer to our degrees. Online learning isn’t ideal, and rolling out of bed at 11:27 to Zoom into your 11:30 isn’t how philosophy is meant to be learned. However, the Saint Anselm College administration has made many moves to ensure that we will in fact advance in our degree pursuit. 

As you have been contacted about, or have seen on Instagram, students will have a pass/fail option for their grades this semester. Students will have an opportunity to see their letter grade before they decide to opt in to a pass grade. The threshold to receive a “pass” is a D, or a C/C- for nursing students (contingent upon their YOG). This means that the default will be the letter grade. Students will know about their final grades by May 10th, and they have until May 12th to request pass/fail. 

The decision to implement these rules was voted upon by the curriculum committee on April 1st, before moving on for approval by the Board of Trustees. Most of the deans were on board, with just a couple abstaining or voting nay. The main concerns expressed in the committee were coming from professors who felt that a “D” was too low of a passing grade. Other schools in Saint Anselm’s field have similar scores. Loyola Maryland, a small, Jesuit liberal-arts school in Baltimore is using a “C-”, and Providence College is taking all passing grades (D- and up) as “passes”.  

Another wing of deans and faculty felt that, given the unsettling and confusing circumstances we find ourselves in, students should be given a wide breadth of opportunities to succeed. Online learning is not the best way to learn nor the best way to teach, and these committee members ultimately agreed that when in doubt, let the students pass. 

Students are further removed from their college than ever before. For many of us, our whole lives feel uprooted, and academics often feel like a second concern (or third, or fourth…). Rest assured, the school seems to have students at the forefront of their decision making considerations. 

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