The argument claims that grades given in the first semester harm various marginalized groups

This winter, the student members of the Committee on Educational Affairs (CEA) brought an argument that the College should adopt a mandatory Credit/No Credit (C/NC) grading policy for students in their first semester at the College. On April 3, faculty were informed about this argument, which will be a topic of discussion at the faculty meeting this afternoon.

This suggestion was based on similar policies at peer institutions, like Swarthmore, MIT, and Wellesley, where first-year students still receive letter grades on all course components, but receive “credit” or “no credit” designations on their official transcripts (i.e. shadow grading).

What proponents of the argument fail to realize is that adopting the policy could, in fact, result in significant academic harm, especially for students who do not come from elite academic backgrounds. Although there will not be a motion to adopt the policy at this afternoon’s meeting – the CEA brought this topic to the general faculty for discussion to build consensus on the “underlying value of the goals” – I think it is important to share my opinion here, because many students are not familiar with this argument and many professors who share my feel ings are afraid to voice opposition due to the framing’s focus on mental health, grades, and minorities.

My academic background can hardly be considered “elite”; I come from the Third World, where my mother did not even finish high school

It asserts that “isolation, stress and a myopic focus on academics … are differentially demanding for marginalized students, whether based on their racial identity, class, sexual orientation or any otherness.” While I appreciate the empathy for ing stifles debate. Because the argument is framed as “reducing harm towards minorities,” professors and students opposed to the argument will be afraid of voicing concerns or offering arguments against it lest they be perceived as callous or bigoted.

In many respects, I was a e from Brazil to study in the United States. I attended public schools, and I am intimately familiar with students from various cultures who have non-elite backgrounds.

The argument claims that grade-induced academic expectations are stressful and that students’ mental health and social relationships will improve under a C/NC system while keeping students’ long-term academic performance intact

To students like me and my friends, the cost of removing expectations, deadlines, and the incentive of grades was the loss of motivation to study. For instance, most of the courses I took during graduate school, a time when I already had basic knowledge of biology, were C/NC. As a result, I never focused on studying for exams or making sure I understood all of the material; instead I focused solely on aspects directly related to my area of research at the time. Without the immediate rewards or consequences of grades, many students will let distractions and other pressing activities get in the way of academics.

In fact, the argument admits students must either focus on “academics” or “developing a sense of self and community.” Take the rationale given for the move to C/NC: In the wake of instituting a similar shadow grading policy for first-years, Wellesley conducted a survey in which 45 percent of students said they were incentivized to spend more time “interacting with friends” and 40 percent said they were incentivized to spend more time “participating in recreational activities.” In other words, removing grades pleased the students because it allowed them to invest more time in their social systems.

For academically privileged students who already have good study habits, this increased leisure may not be harmful – in fact, the argument refers to this integration into social communities as healthy Lue tГ¤mГ¤ viesti täältГ¤ choices that promote mental health and academic success. However, students who are less academically prepared will lose precisely the incentives that will help them catch up with more prepared peers. The first semester in college is crucial because material builds up from previous study, and without a solid first base, it might be difficult to move on to advanced levels. As a result, I see every reason to expect that academic gaps between the more and less prepared students will be exacerbated by adopting the C/NC system.