Warren wrong to switch from pass/no pass grades

    When the Warren College Writing Program decided to switch from a pass/no pass system to a graded one, it ended the last mandatory pass/fail class in the UC system. Quite a change from an institution whose most competitve school mandated that all classes be evaluated by professor narratives only 30 years ago. And it¹s possible that this trend spells a negative tendancy within not just UC schools, but universities as a whole.

    The Committee on Educational Policy, a branch of the Academic Senate, made the decision in April and reported it to Earl Warren College in a June 9 memo. By then, it was far too late to raise the matter with the college faculty, which was not consulted at all.

    Many faculty members (and many students) believe that when a course is taken on a P/NP basis, students feel obliged to give greater attention to graded courses. The CEP decided that to allow a required writing course in any college to receive subordinate attention was, in their words, “”intolerable.””

    This goes largely against the school of thought that believes enforcing letter grades only encourages students to worry about grades rather than the actual material. The theory behind a P/NP writing class was not to enable students to ignore their work, but instead to be able to focus on generating a writing ability rather than a grade point average.

    It could be argued that the CEP has been a bit underhanded in how it has handled the matter. It could be argued that the subsequent dissatisfaction of Warren administrators could prove detrimental in the enactment of these changes. It could be argued that such a transition should be instigated by the institution, which will most closely be affected by these changes.

    But it is perhaps even more pertinent to consider the effect that this decision will have on both the immediate and long-term spectrum of student welfare.

    Largely because of its graduation requirements that favor engineering students, the student body at Warren College is somewhat inundated with a more mathematically minded demographic. For these students, Warren Writing 10A and 10B are very possibly the only writing classes they will ever take, and one of the few humanities-focused classes. The course serves as an introduction to argumentative writing, but more importantly, the course is a lone mandatory exploration of argumentation, writing and essay abilities.

    The change could be very positive if it results in students becoming more engaged with writing, since writing is probably the most important thing one learns in school. However, the “”low-risk”” quality of the P/NP grading scheme has heretofore been part of the pedagogical logic of Warren writing because it allowed students to focus on writing and not grades.

    Most Warren writing students are incoming freshmen, under a lot of pressure to acclimate to college life, to San Diego, and to an independent living situation. Of course such considerations shouldn¹t merit a free ride through your first year, but it¹s similarly obvious that there are pressures that first year that disappear after a quarter or two. If Warren writing can provide an escape from the grade-chasing, GPA-mongering attitude that dominates the first-year experience, then so much the better.

    There are few opportunities officially allowed to foster an environment without the added stress of grades. Those chances should be encouraged rather than demolished.

    The CEP has made a mistake in forcing the switch from P/NP to letter grades. This was a chance for students to learn without feeling overwhelmed, to value ability rather than success. The focus of education may have changed to value grades over aptitude, and the prevailing tendency may be to think that GPAs define academic success. But that doesn¹t make those persuasions valid. Students have the next four years to be convinced of the importance of grades. It shouldn¹t be enforced from their very first course.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal