The Yale College Council is pushing for undergraduates to have an extra three weeks in the semester to decide whether to take classes under the Credit/D/Fail option.
The YCC submitted a proposal to Yale College Dean Mary Miller last week that would allow students to elect to take courses Credit/D/Fail up to five weeks into the semester — three weeks later than the current deadline at the end of shopping period. YCC President Brandon Levin ’13 said the proposed reform would improve how students allocate the four Credit/D/Fail classes they can count toward graduation, but would not alter the system so drastically that it produced grade inflation — a concern professors had raised in the past.
“We want to give students three more weeks after shopping period so they can see what [a] class is actually like,” Josh Rubin ’14, a member of the YCC’s Academics Committee, said. “Sections don’t start until after shopping period, so oftentimes it’s hard for a student to evaluate the difficulty of a class until after shopping period is over.”
Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon said the Credit/D/Fail system was created to “encourage experimentation” by students in their academics.
Currently, students can switch a class from Credit/D/Fail to a letter grade until two weeks after midterm period, which was Nov. 4 this semester. Students cannot change a course from a letter grade to Credit/D/Fail after submitting their schedules during shopping period. The latest YCC proposal follows a number of failed attempts to revise the current Credit/D/Fail policy over the past few years. In 2008, the YCC submitted a proposal that would have allowed students to convert classes to Credit/D/Fail after viewing their final grades, and in 2010, another proposal sought to let students fulfill distributional requirements with courses taken as Credit/D/Fail. Both proposals ultimately failed.
Levin said he thinks the most recent YCC proposal asks for less substantial changes to the Credit/D/Fail system than previous proposals have, making this one more likely to pass.
“We’ve done our best to not bite off more than we can chew,” he said. “We think this proposal has a good chance of happening.”
So far, Levin said the proposal has received support not only from students but also from faculty. In the past, Levin said professors have feared that significantly extending the deadline to decide about Credit/D/Fail would lead to grade inflation. He said allowing students to opt to take a course Credit/D/Fail five weeks into the semester would prevent grade inflation that might have occurred if students had until the end of the semester to choose not to receive a letter grade.
Setting the deadline five weeks into the semester allows students to make decisions after testing out sections and turning in minor course assignments, but before receiving grades on major evaluations such as midterms, Levin added.
For the proposal to take effect, it would first have to be recommended by the Committee on Honors and Academic Standing and then pass a faculty vote, Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Schenker, who chairs the committee, said in a Monday email. He added that the committee has not yet received the YCC’s proposal.
Levin said he submitted the proposal to Miller in the hope that she would pass it along to the Committee on Honors and Academic Standing with her support. Miller said Monday that she has not yet formed an opinion about the proposal.
Nine of 12 students interviewed said they support the YCC’s proposed reform, while two were neutral and one was against it.
“I think that would be a good idea,” Isis Sikainga ’14 said. “A lot of students take classes and realize later on that they should’ve taken them Credit/D/Fail.”
Christina Marmol ’12 said that if students had more time to decide whether to take a class Credit/D/Fail, they would be less likely to feel compelled to drop courses that became unmanageable shortly after shopping period ended.
But Shir Levkowitz ’12 said he did not support the reform because he thinks the current Credit/D/Fail policy already gives students an adequate chance to choose whether to take a course for a grade.
“Sometimes you take a class that’s too hard and you have to deal with it, and gauge it in the beginning of the semester,” Levkowitz said.
Seven percent of course enrollments were ultimately registered as Credit/D/Fail during the 2009-’10 academic year.