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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

UCC student reps issue survey on pass/fail

Published: February 4, 2011
Section: Front Page

The student representatives on the University Curriculum Committee (UCC) have released a campus-wide survey that asks students about possible conditions for the committee’s approval of the academic credit decision known as “pass/fail plus.”

Students currently may take four classes pass/fail during their time at Brandeis, and the “plus option,” being debated by the committee since 2006, would allow one of that number to be used toward the general university requirements for graduation, including the science, quantitative reasoning or non-Western requirement.

The survey, ostensibly put in the Union secretary’s announcements by representatives Jenna Rubin, Usman Hameedi and Sofya Bronshvayg, asks if students would prefer the change to pass/fail, but also asks if they would accept it with certain compromises to satisfy professors and others who see pass/fail for a university requirement as a threat to a well-rounded curriculum.

One proposal would entail “raising the passing grade for a class taken Pass/Fail to a C-” allowing teachers to feel more assured that students, even if they are taking a class for a “P,” will attempt a minimal standard of work. The survey asks if students would favor the change, hinting the move would be a condition were the committee finally to decide for approval.

The other question asks students if they would permit teachers to know if they were taking a class pass/fail—under the current system, professors teach and score grades without knowing whom in the class may cover those letter grades with a “P.”

The UCC, while it has not made an official announcement, meets nearly every other week, and, by the next meeting on Feb 10., the results of the survey will be available.

In addition to the students sitting on the committee are several faculty members and the dean of arts and sciences, who chairs it. The committee debates and gives final approval to all types of university guidelines, requirements and major plans.

Dean Adam Jaffe declined to comment for this article as the committee’s final decision has not been reached on the subject of Pass/fail plus, and several faculty and student members did not return multiple requests for comment.