Starting next school year, students will be allowed to switch course credits to Credit/D/Fail during the first half of the semester, Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun announced in an email to the Yale community on Thursday morning.
Under the new policy, students will be allowed to complete eight full weeks of classes before choosing which courses to take as Credit/D/Fail, rather than having to make that decision when schedules are sealed at the beginning of the semester. Under the current system, students can switch from Credit/D/Fail to the letter grade option by a deadline roughly two weeks after the midterm in the fall semester and about a month after the midterm in the spring. But the system does not allow students to switch from the letter grade option to Credit/D/Fail.
Beginning next fall, students will begin all their classes for a letter grade but will have the option to switch to Credit/D/Fail anytime before the midterm, which arrives eight weeks into the semester. When students take classes as Credit/D/Fail, any grade of C- or above appears on their transcripts as “CR” while any D-range grade or failure is reported as such.
“Under the current system, students may not have an accurate sense of their courses’ difficulty levels and workloads before making the important academic decision to designate a class Credit/D/Fail,” said YCC President Matt Guido ’19 in a statement to the News. “The new policy gives students time to make a more informed decision based on eight weeks of experience and grades in all of their courses before selecting to designate a course Credit/D/Fail.”
The new policy was approved on Feb. 1 at a Yale College faculty meeting. In his email, Chun noted that the change was prompted by calls for Credit/D/Fail reform from the Yale College Council, as well as consultation with faculty members and administrators.
The change comes almost two years after the YCC published its YCC Credit/D/Fail Report in spring 2016, which recommended that Yale extend the Credit/D/Fail to letter grade conversion deadline to the first day of finals period each semester and permit students to switch a course from a letter grade to Credit/D/Fail and vice versa during the first four weeks of each semester, among other proposals.
Some aspects of the current policy will remain in place once the change goes into effect. Students will still be allowed to take a total of only four Credit/D/Fail course credits toward a bachelor’s degree and two in any given term — provided that they are simultaneously enrolled in, at a minimum, two other letter-grade classes. Any change from the letter grade to the CR/D/Fail option cannot be reversed, even before the midterm deadline.
With its beginning-of-the-semester deadline, Yale’s Credit/D/Fail policy has historically been more restrictive than those of many of its peer institutions. Harvard and Brown give students four weeks to decide which classes to take Credit/D/Fail, Princeton gives students seven to nine weeks and Columbia offers 10 to 11 weeks.
Guido said the YCC hopes the new policy helps decrease stress for students, reduces the number of students who drop courses at midterm because of their projected letter grades and “fulfills the Credit/D/Fail program’s intended goal of fostering academic exploration and discovery.” He also noted that the topic of Credit/D/Fail reform has been a fixture in meetings between the YCC and Chun, and that the YCC is grateful for the support from Chun and the Committee on Honors and Academic Standing.
Yale College Dean of Academic Affairs and chair of the Committee on Honors and Academic Standing Mark Schenker said that following the YCC’s report, former Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway and Dean of Undergraduate Education Pamela Schirmeister ’80 encouraged members of his committee to find a way to make the Credit/D/Fail policy more flexible and bring Yale in line with its peer institutions. According to Schenker, the committee has spent the past three terms deliberating on the policy and requesting input from faculty and administrators, including the directors of undergraduate studies for Yale’s various departments and programs.
According to Director of Undergraduate Studies for Philosophy Daniel Greco, Yale College sent a survey to DUSes asking for their views on allowing students to select the Credit/D/Fail option later in the semester. Greco told the News he is happy about the new policy because it will encourage the kind of experimentation that is “beneficial to students’ intellectual development.”
“As I understand the point of the Credit/D/Fail option, it’s to encourage students to take courses outside their comfort zones, without worrying about grades. But especially early in a student’s academic career, she might not have a good sense of just what her comfort zones are,” Greco said. “My prediction is that when students know that they can wait until after receiving feedback on written work whether to take a class Credit/D/Fail, we’ll have more students taking classes they suspect they might enjoy, but which they also worry they might do quite poorly in.”
Students interviewed by the News said they are excited about the new policy.
Julia Leatham ’21 said it is often tough to predict the workload of a given course at the beginning of the semester, adding that the new policy will allow students to focus on choosing good classes during shopping period — and worry about making Credit/D/Fail changes later.
Aidan O’Connor ’20 said the new system will encourage students to stay enrolled in classes they are struggling in rather than dropping them before the midterm.
And Imani Richardson ’21 said that until this semester she did not realize the option to switch letter grade classes to Credit/D/F closed after shopping period because she assumed Yale already had a more generous policy.
“I didn’t know you couldn’t switch from a letter grade to Credit/D/Fail after the first two weeks,” she said. “I’m really glad to hear that it’s been switched.”
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