The Columbia College Student Council passed a resolution Sunday night calling for a policy to require first-semester first-years to take all non-Core classes pass/D/fail in their first semester.
The policy, which would need to be approved by Columbia College Dean James Valentini and the Committee on Instruction before going into effect, would also lower the credit limit from 22 points to 18 points during students' first semester.
A pass grade would not be uncoverable, but would be "published on students' unofficial transcripts for personal review," the CCSC resolution states. Those grades would not be calculated into students' GPAs but could be used "under the students [sic] discretion" on internship or scholarship applications.
The resolution, which passed 23-4 with two abstentions, is the culmination of a yearlong effort by Academic Affairs Representative Steven Castellano, CC '13, who said that the policy likely would not go into effect until the class of 2018's first year at the earliest, due to the time needed to get it approved. Castellano plans to present Valentini and the committee with a 40-page proposal researching pass/fail policies and stress reduction strategies at peer institutions.
"It helps solve problems related to the unequal preparation for school, it helps with academic integrity ... and it leads to course exploration," Castellano said.
Mandating pass/D/fail classes would ease the transition from high school to college for first-years, Castellano, who took 19 credits his first semester, said.
"It sounds almost cliché by now, but we come from all across the country and all across the world," he said. "When we get here, we have different levels of readiness and different levels of expectations of what we can take on."
The norm, Castellano said, was for students to take "18 or 20" credits in their first semester, which he said leads students to "isolate themselves in work."
Castellano decided to exempt Core classes from the policy after conversations with faculty members on the Committee for the Core Curriculum. Pass/failing classes like Lit Hum would give students "even less of a motivation to read" the texts, he said.
Jared Odessky, CC '15 and vice president of communications, said he voted in favor of the resolution because the policy ensures that Columbia is keeping its wellness initiative a priority.
"Many of my friends were overly adventurous their first semester and took a lot of classes," Odessky said. "It became very stressful for them and it was a rocky start at Columbia."
Odessky, a candidate for the University Senate, said that he took only 14 credits his first semester at Columbia, with one class pass/D/fail.
"I had a much easier time adjusting," he said.
David Froomkin, CC '15 and a candidate for the University Senate, said that while he supports the gist of the policy, he has problems with several points of the proposal.
"I'm all for a policy which allows first-years to pass/fail classes in order to alleviate stress. However, I do believe grades should be uncoverable," Froomkin, a Spectator Arts & Entertainment staff writer, said. "Students should be able to present their transcripts as they wish."
Froomkin also criticized the reduction in the credit limit.
"I think the issue here is that students should be able to take the classes they wish to take," he said. "I don't think it would be appropriate to limit their freedom in course selection."
While the policy will not affect the class of 2017, council members noted that it could possibly be attractive to students who might be interested in applying to Columbia in the future.
"It's going to be a draw for students interested in coming here," Odessky said. "The fact that we're constantly rated as the number one most stressful campus is a drawback for the school. You don't want to go to college to be stressed out. You want to have a rigorous academic experience but also a good campus experience."
Across Broadway, members of Barnard's Student Government Association are also considering a change in pass/D/fail policy. Unlike at Columbia, Barnard students are not allowed to uncover pass/D/fail grades—a restriction SGA wants to change.
At the SGA meeting on Monday night, Elaine Gottesman, BC '14 and representative for academic affairs, presented a proposal that would make all grades uncoverable. SGA members plan to discuss the proposal with Provost Linda Bell and Registrar Constance Brown and vote on it no later than January 2014.
"The idea is to align our policy more closely with Columbia's, because Columbia students taking our classes can uncover their grades, and when we take classes at Columbia we cannot," Academic Affairs Representative Maggie Horikawa, BC '14, said.
"Our job is to be students. It's not like we are going to take a class less seriously because we have the option to P/D/F it," SGA Vice President Julia Kennedy, BC '13, said.
Rachel Ferrari, BC '13 and SGA representative for college relations, said SGA would take its time on the policy.
"We're not going to slip this under their door and hope they take it seriously," she said. "It involves a conversation."
Emma Goss contributed reporting.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misattributed the last quote to Julia Kennedy. Spectator regrets the error.
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