Despite the Yale College Council’s efforts, Credit/D/Fail policy is unlikely to change in the near future.
The YCC aims to get the conversion deadline from Credit/D/Fail to the standard letter grade option pushed back by two weeks, according to YCC President Danny Avraham. Though the Committee on Honors and Academic Standing has rejected that proposal for the past two years, Avraham said the YCC is now trying to get Credit/D/Fail on the agenda for a meeting of the Teaching, Learning and Advising Standing Committee. This year, he said, the YCC will not offer specific recommendations as it did in previous years. Instead, the plan is to submit a broader review of the Credit/D/Fail policy so that the administration itself can determine which reforms would be most optimal. Still, administrators interviewed questioned whether moving the deadline back would be a wise decision, and members of the Teaching, Learning and Advising Standing Committee were uncertain whether their committee has jurisdiction over Credit/D/Fail.
Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs George Levesque, who sits on the committee, said the issue falls under the purview of the Committee on Honors and Academic Standing. The Teaching, Learning and Advising Standing Committee has not discussed Credit/D/Fail during the past year, said history and religious studies professor Harry Stout, who chairs the committee.
The purpose of the Credit/D/Fail conversion deadline is to allow students time to get a sense of how they are faring in a particular course, Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Schenker, chair of the Committee on Academic Honor and Standing, said in a Monday email.
“Reasonable people can disagree as to how deep into the term that deadline should be set,” he said, adding that he believes a deadline at the end of the 9th or 10th week of the term is “late enough.”
But Avraham said Credit/D/Fail deadline should be postponed because the current conversion date does not allow students to explore new disciplines without the immediate concern of grading.
The later deadline would allow students to make more educated decisions on whether or not to take a course for a letter grade, he said.
“With the current deadline, you don’t receive much feedback,” Avraham said. “We think that if the date could be pushed a little bit farther, it would give more students the opportunity to see how they’re improving.”
Dean of Yale College Mary Miller said she suspects students often use Credit/D/Fail to cover their bases in the first few weeks of school but opt for letter grades once they have received feedback that gives them confidence in their ability to do well in the course.
Miller added that pushing back the conversion deadline may in fact weaken the pressure on faculty to assess students’ progress earlier in the term.
“Having a later deadline would certainly not be an incentive for faculty to give earlier feedback,” she said.
Eleven of 19 students interviewed said they support pushing back the conversion deadline for Credit/D/Fail.
Aaron Gertler ’15 said that the Credit/D/Fail option is a “clear boon” since it allows students to take courses that they would not normally feel comfortable trying. He said that he supports pushing back the deadline, adding that students who take advantage of the opportunity to learn something new should be rewarded for exploring new fields rather than punished by having to stress about the grading option they chose.
“Part of the joy [of taking a course Credit/D/Fail] is getting to do something extremely challenging,” he said.
Margaret Ott ’16 said though she has never finished a semester with a Credit/D/Fail course, she appreciates having the option and definitely plans to use it. She said she sees no reason not to extend the deadline.
Students are allowed to take four classes with the Credit/D/Fail option during their time at Yale.