For years now, first-year undergraduate students haven’t had to worry too much about their grades during their first semester at college. That’s because the university followed a policy known as “covered grades,” which keeps first-semester grades out of GPA calculations and off student transcripts. By essentially making first semester pass/fail, advocates of covered grades say, students can find their footing during the difficult first few months of college, without stressing out too much about their specific test scores.
But Hopkins has just announced that it’s scrapping that policy–and students are up in arms about it. A group of students demonstrated outside an academic council meeting, the Washington Post reports. They argued that the school doesn’t have the robust mental health support in place that will be necessary to assist all the first-year students who will be stressed out by having to see their grades. Other critics argue that covered grades are a boon for students who come from less rigorous high schools: “A lot of kids come here from private schools,” rising senior Chase Alston told the Post. “They’re better equipped to handle coming to school. Students from marginalized populations, they may need more time to figure out what resources work for them and what study habits work for them.” But professors complained that covered grades made students lazy, which is one reason the school decided to end the policy.
Meanwhile, another local school is weighing the merits of heading in the opposite direction. Goucher College recently voted to offer certain required classes (foreign language, data analytics, academic writing) as pass/fail only. “We’re asking a series of questions about how we design an environment for learning,” Goucher president José Antonio Bowen told Inside Higher Ed, “and first-year anxiety in relation to grades is a big one.”
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