Board Editorial: Villanova’s Satisfactory /Unsatisfactory Grading Option

On Wednesday, March 25th, the University gave students the option to take their courses with the grade scales of Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory, or keep a normal 4.0 grading scale. This decision comes on the back of the school’s decision to continue online classes for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We, as a board, believe that this decision was a fantastic one on the part of the University’s administration.

Their decision strikes a good balance between decisions that many colleges and universities have already made. Some, such as Columbia, have chosen to make all classes this semester graded on a pass/fail basis, while many others have simply extended the deadline for allowing students to decide if they would like to take pass/fail classes. 

Each of these decisions is problematic. For one, forcing students to take classes as pass/fail hurts students who may have been expecting their GPA to go up at the end of the semester, and now are stuck with the GPA they already had. On the other hand, simply extending the pass/fail deadline does not allow students enough time to really get a firm understanding of how their classes are likely to progress as they enter the new territory of online classes.

The University’s decision to allow students to choose how they would like their classes to be graded after, rather than before, their final grades can be seen, is a smart move.

Further, should students have some experience with the virus during this time, whether they have it themselves or if it has affected a family member, it is unlikely that their primary concern would, or should, be expected to be school. Giving students the option to take a satisfactory/unsatisfactory grade allows them a great deal more flexibility in managing this already complex situation.

In this time of significant stress for students and strain on the faculty, it is for the best that the school gives both groups all possible leniency in dealing with this ever-changing situation. The satisfactory/unsatisfactory option gives students the flexibility they need to manage their personal lives and time now that they are in a potentially uncomfortable environment, and it gives professors a sigh of relief as they will not have their classes swept with declining averages from previous semesters. 

We appreciate your decision Villanova, and we thank you for taking this student-centered approach to the pandemic.