By L. Kincaid Holmes

With remote learning in full swing for the remainder of the semester, dean of academics Meggan Madden announced a new, optional, grading system in a Watercooler announcement on Wednesday.

The grading system allows students to choose to be graded on a three-point scale: satisfactory/satisfactory-deficient/no credit. “The intent of this alternative grading scale is to offer students a way of preserving their GPAs, should there be any concern,” said Madden in her announcement.

Amidst this global crisis, Madden heard concern from professors “about the well-being of their students,” she said.

It is with “the intent of caring for our students, [that] we are offering this alternative grading scale as a concrete and simple way to alleviate stress on students,” said Madden.

If a student opts for the S/SD/NC grading system, each of a student’s final grades for this spring semester only will be converted to the new scale. Students have until May 8, 2020 at midnight to choose to have their grades converted and cannot switch back after making the decision.

Peter van Lidth de Jeude, chair of the history department, noted that he found the debate on the topic very interesting and understands where the need comes from.

Van Lidth de Jeude said that this is a time for students and faculty to be “kind and understanding.”

Given the rapid changes to classes over the last several weeks, offering the new grading system makes sense, said van Lidth de Jeude.

Van Lidth de Jeude noted that there could be unintended consequences of the new system, especially since Principia is now working under two grading schemes. It could also impact student performance, he said.

He is “not really concerned” about how the system will impact his current classes, however, and is quite “impressed by the dedication and involvement” of his students.

Instructor of mass communication Stephanie Bauer also has a “small fear” of the impact this could have on students’ effort. But with her classes being mostly project based, she has faith that her students will continue to work hard and contribute, she said.

The thought behind the new grading scale is clear and the “circumstances are unique” with regards to students’ home lives, so providing grading options to students could be helpful, said Bauer.

“It was not an easy decision [to offer the new grading scale],” said Karen Eckert, director of the Center for Sustainability, in an email interview.

“But for the student who is legitimately struggling with a compromised learning environment due to the shelter-in-place mandate,” acknowledged Eckert, the S/SD/NC option is a loving accommodation that gives that student some leeway – and perhaps a welcome sense of control – over the evaluation of their academic performance during these unusual times.”

As for her own classes, Eckert doesn’t feel that it will affect them. “From a professor’s standpoint it doesn’t affect our classes at all because we will continue to evaluate every assignment and exam against the letter grade rubric.”

“The S/SD/NC request is made to the Registrar directly, [so] a professor is unaware of which students choose it,” explained Eckert.

More information can be found on the registrar’s webpage on PrinWeb, and students can contact the registrar and advising offices with any questions.


Featured image at top is by slightly different from Pixabay.