Admin will not offer pass/fail option for fall classes

A+faculty+assembly+meeting.

Media: The Berkeley Beacon Archives

A faculty assembly meeting.

By Dana Gerber, Deputy News Editor

Emerson administrators do not plan to institute a pass/fail option for classes this semester as they did in the spring to accommodate students struggling with the effects of COVID-19.

The pass/fail policy, which was implemented for the spring semester in late March after overwhelming support from Faculty Assembly, allowed undergraduate students to choose a pass/fail option in place of any of their final course grades after grades were released. The pass/fail policy did not apply to graduate students.

A grade of D or higher constituted a passing grade. If students chose to pass/fail a class, that course did not impact their cumulative GPA, and they still earned credits as long as they passed.

In place of that policy, the college will encourage professors to be understanding of students’ circumstances on a case-by-case basis, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Michaele Whelan said in an email.

“The SGA Academic Vice President and I will be sending an email to faculty later this week emphasizing compassionate pedagogy at this time in the semester,” Whelan wrote to The Beacon. 

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According to the Registrar’s Office, 893 students utilized the pass/fail option in the spring—nearly a quarter of the undergraduate student body. 

Many other colleges in the Boston area implemented some version of a pass/fail option in the spring, including Boston University, Suffolk University, and Northeastern University. Most colleges have not announced any such plans for this semester—except University of Massachusetts Boston, which is allowing students to opt for pass/fail in as many classes as they wish. 

In March, when COVID-19 cases were rising rapidly and the U.S. was under strict lockdown, Whelan said the college instituted the option to allow students leniency during a time of mass instability. 

“In this time of uncertainty, amid moving out of the dorms and changing modalities, I felt it was important to give undergraduate students agency over such an important element of their education,” she said in a statement to The Beacon.

In March, after members of Faculty Assembly voiced their support for the policy, other faculty members were concerned that a pass/fail option would cause students to disengage from classes. Whelan disagreed, saying the goal was to be “as flexible with our students as possible.”

“In many cases, these students are overcoming a lot of hardship to even be in the classroom, and they’re just asking us to be compassionate about their situation in this context,” she said in March. “I don’t see whole groups of our students suddenly choosing to disengage from one another simply because they have a choice around a grade.”