All spring writing seminars will be pass/D/fail (PDF) only, according to an email sent by Director of the Writing Center Dr. Amanda Irwin Wilkins on Friday, March 20.
All first-year students are required to take one semester of writing seminar. The Office of the Dean of the College website describes writing seminar as an “opportunity to belong to a lively academic community in which members investigate a shared topic and discuss their writing together, with the aim of clarifying and deepening their thinking.”
Writing seminar is typically one of the many classes that students are not allowed to PDF.
According to the email, the decision was taken in upholding the Writing Center’s “responsibility for fairness and consistency.”
“By removing the pressure of final grades, we can channel our collective energy into encouraging adventurous writing and sustaining our classroom communities in virtual spaces,” the announcement wrote.
Students and professors have had a variety of reactions to the change.
William Gu ’23, currently in a writing seminar, said the change may affect student outlook, but thought most of the class would remain the same.
“I’d like to think that Princeton students try their best in all their courses and get the most out of them, regardless of whether or not they are PDF,” Gu said.
AJ Comsti ’23 took a writing seminar in the fall term, when all students were required to receive letter grades.
“Logically, I think it’s probably for the better considering everything that’s going on, but as a fall kid I can’t help but feel a tad jealous or that it’s unfair to us,” Comsti said.
Peer Academic Advisor Jared Rios ’22 echoed the sentiments of Gu and Comsti, but said that he believed that the decision was fair in light of student stress.
“When writing sem was taken on a graded basis, people were only concerned with getting an A, so I think this gives people a chance to actually learn what’s being taught instead of just trying to regurgitate what the professor told them,” Rios said. “The late nights and anxiety will be missing from the experience for sure.”
Dr. Sean Fraga, professor for WRI 140: Zoom!, shared his support of the decision, noting that the switch to learning online had many different implications for students.
“My hope is that this change in grading will encourage students to further experiment with their writing. Like any other class, students get out of Writing Seminar what they put into it, and that will be no different this semester,” he said.
“The core work we do in the Writing Seminars — researching, writing, discussing, revising — is more than possible to do remotely,” he continued.
Fraga summed up the decision and his hopes for the future.
“Will things be different? Yes. But Princeton has long thrived as an institution by adapting to change, and I’m confident that students in the Writing Seminars this term will be able to adapt and thrive as well.”