Section: News

College weighs providing students two extra weeks for Pass/D/Fail

College weighs providing students two extra weeks for Pass/D/Fail

Illustration credit: BIRHANU T. GESSESE

During the Sept. 13 Student Council meeting, Vice President of Academic Affairs Delaney Gallagher ’23, on behalf of the Committee on Academic Standards (CAS), outlined a range of potential academic policy changes for this semester, from grading deadlines to the assessment of failed classes.

The most significant of these suggestions is an extended deadline for declaring a class as Pass/D/Fail. If adopted, students wound have up to eight weeks after a course’s start to make the choice — two weeks more than in the past. 

Pass/D/Fail, according to the Kenyon website, exists to “encourage students to experiment with disciplines and courses they might not otherwise try.” According to Gallagher, this change is intended to further encourage this exploration while limiting any anxiety.

Despite the timing of this discussion, members of CAS have said it is not a direct response to challenges posed by COVID-19. “I don’t see it making the curriculum easier at Kenyon, but [it] allow[s] students more time to make an educated decision,” Gallagher explained.

CAS also clarified the existing procedure surrounding course failures due to COVID-19. The spring 2020 semester saw a significant increase in both the number of failed classes and students petitioning to withdraw due to illness (WI). Even with this surge in WI applications, the Office of Academic Advising will continue to operate under normal procedures, considering each on a case-by-case basis. 

“There is evidential reason to believe not all classes were failed for extraordinary circumstances or covid related reasons,” Gallagher wrote in an email to the Collegian

Gallagher added that she is planning on meeting with Joe Murphy, director of the Center for Innovative Pedagogy, to best implement academic changes moving forward. With Murphy’s expertise, CAS’s future changes are expected to ease students’ academic woes, according to Gallagher.

In response to debate on the nature of merit awards in times of heightened inequity, Kenyon’s administration is questioning the granting of such honors. Hoping to mitigate the issues associated with these accolades, Gallagher is working with other Student Council members to create awards for excellence outside of the classroom. However, given that the presenting of awards is generally an end-of-semester occurrence, Student Council tabled the topic in order to discuss more pressing issues.

CAS also discussed how to allow American Sign Language (ASL) as an option for the College’s language requirement. ASL is already an option and students prove their proficiency via an examination, just as they would for any of Kenyon’s other offered languages. The trouble is how to verify that this process truly determines that students took an equivalent year of instruction. Kenyon’s Department of Modern Languages and Literatures is not planning to offer ASL classes. The focus is simply to allow students who took ASL at their high schools to be recognized by the College.

As the fall 2020 semester moves forward, Kenyon hopes to provide students with effective academic policies. Student Council meetings are open to the general body of the College and are held on Sundays at 7 p.m. via Google Hangouts.

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