Through its Pass/D/Fail (P/D/F/) system, Kenyon offers students the opportunity to explore subjects and courses that they are interested in, but may not have confidence that they will earn a satisfactory grade in. This option allows students to receive a pass for any grade above a C-, and, as long as a student passes the course, it will not impact a student’s GPA.
While this option allows students to learn beyond their comfort levels, it comes with a large caveat: Students can only take a class P/D/F if it is outside of their declared major. This rule prevents students from taking full advantage of their liberal arts education by exploring courses within their major that they may find more challenging. Kenyon should adjust the P/D/F policy such that it can be applied to courses within a declared major, so long as the courses are not major requirements, such as introductory or methods courses.
Every major has a certain set of required classes, the foundation upon which each course of study is built. For these required classes, we agree that a P/D/F option would not properly prepare students for their intended field. However, after all requirements in a major have been met, students should be encouraged, not penalized, for exploring their field, particularly through classes which the student might find more challenging. By junior and senior year, students especially concerned with maximizing their major GPA will likely cherry pick courses that they are sure they can succeed in.
Major requirements often make up only a fraction of the total credits each student needs to graduate. As a result, many students choose to have both a major and a minor, or to double major. Once a student has met their major requirements, they are still able to take courses within their major; however, they must balance their curiosity and interest in courses with the consideration of their chances of doing well. Though students are able to audit classes, this is a weak alternative. Auditing allows students to attend a class, but prevents the class from being worth any course credit.
Refusing P/D/F options for courses in a declared major encourages students hoping to maintain a high major GPA to steer clear of courses within their major that might be especially difficult or outside of their comfort zones. According to Kenyon, the P/D/F system is available to “encourage students to experiment with disciplines and courses they might not otherwise try;” this same logic should be applied within a major.
College is the ideal time to explore every aspect of one’s major, yet as it stands, students are encouraged to learn beyond their comfort zones everywhere but within their major.
Audrey, Hannah and Katie
The staff editorial is written weekly by editors-in-chief Katie Sparvero ’25 and Audrey Baker ’25 and managing editor Hannah Sussman ’25. You can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, respectively.