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College of Charleston Rejects Students’ Call for Pass-Fail Grading

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Despite student protests, the College of Charleston announced it will not adopt a pass-fail grading system during its fall semester. Around 4,500 students petitioned to update the school’s grading policy, arguing a pass-fail system will reduce emotional stress caused by the pandemic and increase productivity.

On November 19, college administrators rejected the request. College Provost and Executive VP of Academic Affairs Suzanne Austin wrote an official letter which announced that the school will extend the course withdrawal period to accommodate failing students. It will also allow students to choose a course during the spring 2021 semester that will be graded using the pass-fail option. 

“We recognize this decision will not be universally popular, but we also believe it is the right decision,” Austin wrote. “Since classes began this past August, faculty have been encouraged to be flexible with their assignments, attendance policies, and grading, and that flexibility has resulted in some very positive outcomes during a difficult time.”

Students’ Appeal

Meredith Hutchens, a College of Charleston Junior, told the Post and Courier that the petition was launched to highlight the burden students have carried as a result of this unprecedented time. Switching to a pass-fail grading system would allow students to work on their education without the heightened anxiety of negatively affecting their grade point average, she explained. 

This sentiment appears to have been shared by thousands of students as the petition accumulated nearly 4,500 signatures, representing 45 percent of the college’s overall student body. 

For Hutchens, the course withdrawal extension is not an appropriate alternative, especially for academically conscious students, because it will appear on their transcripts. Disappointed by the final decision, she plans to email the college president and provost and hopefully convince them to reconsider their decision.

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