The faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering voted to extend the pass/fail deadline to 10 weeks into the semester for sophomores, juniors and seniors on Feb. 7 after approving a proposal from the faculty-student Educational Policy Committee (EPC), according to Dean of Undergraduate Studies Carmen Lowe. This follows a Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate resolution calling on the EPC to push the deadline, approved in a Jan. 29 Senate meeting.
This extension of the deadline now matches the 10-week period allotted to first-years and will go into effect in fall 2018, according to first-year TCU Senate Assistant Treasurer Sharif Hamidi, the writer of the resolution.
Anne Mahoney, the chair of the EPC, presided over the faculty vote on the proposed change, which Hamidi attended.
“I was asked to briefly discuss the resolution in front of the faculty … and then I addressed some questions and concerns. Following that, the faculty voted 17-7 to make the change,” Hamidi, a first-year, told the Daily in an email.
The possibility of a pass/fail deadline extension for sophomores, juniors and seniors was a topic of discussion in the EPC even before the resolution was presented, according to Mahoney.
“We had been discussing it long before the Senate’s proposal – in fact, the EPC proposal was on the faculty meeting agenda before the faculty became aware of the Senate resolution,” Mahoney, a senior lecturer in the department of classics, said in an email.
TCU Senate unanimously passed Hamidi’s resolution.
“I think the fact that the resolution passed Senate unanimously indicates that the people representing the undergraduate student body understand that this is a worthwhile policy change,” Hamidi explained.
The extension of the pass/fail deadline will give students more time and flexibility in selecting their courses, according to Phil Miller, Chair of the TCU Senate Education Committee.
“With a later pass/fail deadline student will have a better idea of how they are doing in their classes before they make the decision to pass/fail a class,” Miller, a sophomore, said in an email. “The decision to pass/fail a class can be important when a student is deciding their major because pass/fail classes usually cannot be counted towards your major. This may also encourage students to take classes they initially wouldn’t take.”
Hamidi also said the extension will promote students to explore different classes and subjects.
“I think that this resolution was warranted since college students, especially Tufts students, are encouraged to explore new academic fields during their time as undergraduates,” Hamidi said.
The faculty of the EPC, however, are wary of the negative impacts an extension of the pass/fail deadline could pose on students’ work ethics while also recognizing the positive implications, according to Mahoney. She said the faculty on the EPC and the Arts, Sciences and Engineering faculty at large are concerned that students might abuse pass/fail by switching as soon as they think they are getting a bad grade, or disengaging from a class they are taking pass/fail.
“But we do recognize that sometimes it’s appropriate for a student to take a course this way,” Mahoney added after expressing these concerns. “Sometimes a class starts out difficult … but then feels easier once students make the conceptual breakthrough. Ushering out the pass/fail deadline may mean that some students will wait until that breakthrough, recognize that in fact they are learning … new ways of thinking and get a letter grade in the course, while with an earlier deadline they might have opted for pass/fail.”
The extension will be officially announced to students and faculty in the fall, according to Lowe.
“Because the new policy will not go into effect until fall 2018, the new deadline will be posted on the Academic Calendar and in the Bulletin,” Lowe said. “This change will also be included in training for advisors, and will be announced in information sent to students the fall.”
Hamidi said that he was pleased that TCU Senate was able to affect policy change.
“I’m incredibly happy with the results,” Hamidi said. “Policy change projects are quite a big undertaking in Senate and I’m very proud that I was able to deliver this benefit to the student body.”