Motion to Expand Access to S/U Grading Option Proposed, Amended; Vote Postponed to November

(Photo Allyson Frantz/The Gettysburgian)

(Photo Allyson Frantz/The Gettysburgian)

By Anna Cincotta, Editor-in-Chief

President Iuliano began today’s faculty meeting by asking faculty members for their patience while waiting to hear about what the spring semester at Gettysburg College will look like. “We are approaching this as methodically as I think you would want us to,” he said.

The college is looking to learn from the fall reopening and subsequent de-densification to ensure that the spring goes as smoothly as possible. Iuliano also highlighted the possibility for new testing protocols, as well as concern about the spread of COVID-19 during flu season. “Waiting a little bit [to share about our spring semester plan] increases the likelihood that we’re going to get to a better judgment at the end of the day,” Iuliano said.

Weekly listening sessions will continue to be held in an effort to open up communication channels between the college and the student body. 

A motion to expand access to the Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading option for this academic year was introduced to faculty this afternoon. Student Senate has recommended a continuation of the S/U grading option throughout this academic year after reporting broad support across the student body.

The motion proposed by the Academic Policy and Program Committee (APPC) would extend the deadline for choosing the S/U grading option to Oct. 30, giving students extra time to decide whether or not to adopt this new grading option. If approved, the S/U grading option proposed today by the APPC “may be chosen for a maximum of one course each semester” during this academic year, and may not be used in order to fulfill major and minor requirements. 

Daniel McCall, Professor of Psychology, highlighted how the motion was designed by the APPC in order to account for differences in levels of privilege that have been heightened during the move to remote learning for many students. 

Many members of the faculty, however, voiced concern about the motion proposed by the APPC, feeling as though it didn’t provide the kind of flexibility that students need right now. 

Brendan Cushing-Daniels, Professor of Economics and Harold G. Evans Chair of Eisenhower Leadership Studies, advocated for a change that would allow students to take more than one class S/U for the semester. “If the logic of the motion is valid for one course, why isn’t it valid for all courses? If we have students who have little support for their work, who are working additional hours to support themselves, who are overwhelmed by physical [or] emotional health problems … why would we not want to grant them the flexibility to take all [or] more courses S/U this semester?”

Hakim Williams, Associate Professor of Africana Studies and the Director of Peace and Justice Studies, shared a similar sentiment. “Let us advise students closely and then allow them the independence to make decisions that best suit their current situations,” he said. 

According to representatives from the APPC, the concern about extending the option for S/U to more than one class per semester during this academic year was about the potential for limited academic engagement and complications that may result from graduate school program requirements. 

Scott Boddery, Assistant Professor of Political Science, said that his conversations with deans at various law schools have led him to believe that students choosing to take advantage of S/U or pass/fail grading options during this pandemic will not be negatively affected during the admissions process. 

There was not unanimous consent to vote on the merits of the motion today, meaning that the earliest vote for the motion for S/U grading will be in November. This, as President Iuliano underscored during the meeting, will have consequences for the students who would’ve taken advantage of the extended deadline for adopting the S/U option. 

After the proposed motion failed, it was amended twice to increase its flexibility, mainly surrounding the second two points that exclude the S/U option from major and minor requirements and limit the maximum number of S/U courses to one per semester. Unanimous consent, however, was never obtained in order to move forward with voting. The next step, after unanimous consent, would require a two-thirds supermajority in order for the motion to pass.

McKinley Melton, Associate Professor of English, urged the faculty members who continued to vote ‘No’ to engage in the discussion and express why they were “voting no against voting,” or voting ‘No’ on moving towards a vote on the amended motion. No one spoke up. 

The first point of the proposed motion, which extends the deadline for choosing the S/U grading option to Oct. 30, was also voted on in isolation in an effort to grant students an extension for choosing the S/U option.“Point one is the time-sensitive point that we need to get on the record in order for students to make an informed decision,” Boddery said. “We can change it later as to how many courses or what type of courses can be done, but bullet point one needs to be handled today.”

Despite professors advocating for affording students this extension, this part of the motion—which advocated an extension of the deadline for students to choose the S/U option—failed due to a single ‘No’ vote from a member of the faculty before moving to a formal vote, which only requires a supermajority. 

The next faculty meeting will be in early November, after the proposed extended deadline. 

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Author: Anna Cincotta

Anna Cincotta ’21 serves as the editor-in-chief of The Gettysburgian, and is a political science major with a minor in peace and justice Studies. She previously served as the opinions editor, and works on campus as the program coordinator for the Painted Turtle Farm and a Peer Learning Associate for the Political Science Department. If you see her in Commons, feel free to strike up a conversation about dogs or the most recent episode of “The Daily."

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