Drawing on feedback from 1,452 undergraduates, the Yale College Council has submitted two reports proposing reform to shopping period and the Credit/D/Fail conversion deadline.
Results of two surveys indicated that more than 70 percent of the students who participated were in support of both the proposed reforms. The reports, which were submitted to the administration last week, include recommendations to not allow graded assignments to be due during shopping period and to extend the deadline for conversion of a course from Credit/D/Fail to a letter grade until the last day before reading period. YCC Academics Director David Lawrence ’15 said he is confident the administration has the students’ best interests in mind, noting that the YCC had been very careful in crafting and extending their proposals to the administration.
“We’re recommending things that generally will increase fairness and students’ desires to explore courses,” Lawrence said. “I do feel optimistic that if the administration carefully reads the recommendations, they will agree with our recommendations.”
This semester, the last day to convert a course from Credit/D/Fail to a letter grade is April 6.
According to the report, the majority of students surveyed rated shopping period as either “very stressful” or “more stressful than the rest of the semester.” Regarding the Credit/D/Fail option, 71 percent of students also said they take courses Credit/D/Fail with the intention of eventually converting them to letter grades. Both shopping period and the Credit/D/Fail program are not fulfilling their goal of encouraging course exploration as well as they could, Lawrence said.
Six students interviewed said they would put more effort into a course if the deadline for conversion to a letter grade was extended, in order to keep open the option of converting it. All students interviewed also expressed frustration with the fact that they are often uncertain about where they stand in the course by the time the deadline arrives. Further, 66 percent of survey participants claimed they would be more likely to explore classes outside of their major using Credit/D/Fail if the deadline was moved.
“Students sometimes don’t get their work back until late in the semester,” Travis Reginal ’16 said. “Last semester I had a course where the majority of my grade came in during the last week so even though things seemed fine before, the situation changed.”
Kia Quinlan ’16 said she faced a similar experience when she did well on the first midterm for a class, but did not end up with the grade had hoped for due to an increased workload towards the end of the semester. Further, Folake Ogunmola ’15 said the YCC’s proposed deadline change would only positively affect those who happened to do poorly later on.
However, two students said they disagree with the YCC’s proposed change to shopping period. Steven MacLean ’18 said the main cause of stress during shopping period is the overlapping of classes, which causes undergraduates to sometimes miss potentially important lectures — and not the risk of having graded assignments due in the first week.
“From personal experience, the reason shopping period is stressful is more because I’m missing crucial information and getting behind in hard classes where going to class is most important,” Bolun Liu ’16 said. “I think people should think more about what’s causing the stress, and I’m not sure this is the best solution.”
Professors interviewed have also disagreed with the proposal regarding shopping period. David Kimel GRD ’16, who is teaching the seminar “Sex and Violence in the Ancient World” this semester, said that because professors have different amounts of material to cover, an absolute rule against collecting assignments during shopping period would be too restrictive.
Biomedical engineering professor Stuart Campbell echoed this notion, explaining that while he personally does not assign assignments during shopping period, the change would disrupt the weekly schedule of many other courses. The solution did not take into account the discrepancies between and within academic departments, Campbell said.
“A policy that restricts instructors in that way doesn’t seem to be that productive,” Campbell said. “My overall feeling is that the requirements of courses are too varied to implement this proposal; some professors would find it not as big of a deal and others would find it restrictive.”
However, both Kimel and Campbell agreed adding an additional two weeks to the Credit/D/Fail conversion date would not cause much difference from their perspective.
While Lawrence said the changes could be readily implemented if they were passed, he noted the faculty standing committees — groups comprised of administrators, students and faculty — would most likely not vote on the measures until the end of the academic year.