Taking a break from the grade inflation issue, the Committee on Examinations and Standing endorsed the introduction of the "P/D/F-rescind option" at a meeting Monday.
However, even if the rescind option is approved at a faculty meeting this spring, the need to update computer programs could postpone its implementation for an uncertain period of time.
The option would allow students to switch to a letter grade if they had already decided to take a class P/D/F. The deadline for switching from a letter grade to a P/D/F would still be the fifth week of the semester. However, a change from a P/D/F to a letter grade could be made until the ninth week of the semester.
Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel, who chairs the Committee on Examinations and Standing, said that when presented with a committee-endorsed proposal, the faculty will sometimes send it back to the original Committee for further work. However, she added they do not often do so.
Intended to broaden students' choices, the P/D/F reform plan has been on the table since winter 1996 when it was part of USG candidate's platforms. After the Committee on the Course of Study approved the plan on Nov. 13, it sent the proposal to the faculty-only Committee on Examinations and Standing.
"It's really exciting and it's beneficial to students. Faculty won't be teaching duds, and the students will be interested in learning," USG academics chair Todd Rich '00 said.
Economics professor Peter Kenen, a member of the Committee on Examinations and Standing, said he saw the option's advantages.
"Students may themselves underestimate how they will do in the course," he said, adding that the ability to switch from a P/D/F to a letter grade would give students an additional incentive to work hard after the midterm.
The plan would also lower the maximum number of P/D/F courses during an undergraduate career from six to four. Any course registered as P/D/F by the fifth-week deadline, even those later switched to a letter grade, would count as one of those four, according to USG president David Ascher '99.
Because of these added complexities, the plan cannot be implemented next fall, said Deputy Registrar Joseph Greenberg. Computer programs must be updated to count P/D/F options which a student rescinds, he explained. Currently, the Registrar's "top priority" is updating computers for the year 2000. Greenberg said he is not sure "how quickly [P/D/F-rescind] is possible."
Still, USG leaders said they want quick action. "This better be passed," Rich said of the plan. "I want to see this next year."
"I don't believe that we should let the limits of computer programs dictate policy" Ascher said.
Though the administration and USG expressed different views about when P/D/F should go into effect, both praised their partnership on the issue.
"The faculty and students worked together as a singular body with a singular goal," Rich said. "They collaborated together to come up with the best consensus plan."
"Students' role was critical," Malkiel said. "This is a joint faculty-student project."