New flexibility to pass or fail

After two years of pushing to change class registration, the Student Government Association (SGA) has finally gotten approval from the Faculty Academic Senate to allow students to change their class grading options all the way up until drop day.

In the past, the option to change class grading from pass/fail to a letter grade, and vice versa, was restricted to the class registration phases.

The last registration phase ends one week into the semester, locking students into their decisions for the following 16 weeks.

Students can now take more time to decide what type of grading option to use for their classes. The change in the academic policy will go into effect starting with the 2009 summer semester.

SGA consulted with other institutions, as well as with a number of other students, to find the best option for the change before formulating the idea to change the current grade option policy.

“It is a big win for students, providing them with more academic flexibility for their elective classes,” said Nick Wellkamp, undergraduate student body president. “This change was a major victory for SGA, and it is part of our effort to improve academic flexibility at Georgia Tech.”

Wellkamp also added that despite pushes by SGA to change policy in the past, there was resistance from some of the academic advisors, who worried that students would accidentally switch certain courses, such as those required for degrees, which the students are not allowed to take on a pass/fail basis.

“Students were very adamant about having the chance to evaluate the level of difficulty of the course before making a decision that could greatly impact one’s GPA,” said Corey Boone, chair of the SGA committee on Academic Affairs. “It seemed unfair to the students to make a blind guess as to whether they should allow a course to impact their GPA.”

However, not all students see the pass of this measure as providing the student body any significant benefit over the current system.

“[Deciding on grading] is a decision you make at the beginning of the semester. I don’t really see why you need it. Pass/Fail is a system I generally don’t like. It encourages doing just enough to get by,” said Stephen Condon, a fourth-year NRE major and a member of the RHA Financial Oversight Committee.

According to SGA, the policy change gives students another way to have greater control over their own degrees. Wellkamp says that students should now have a greater chance to get better grades or maintain their GPA, since they will have more time to assess their progress in courses.