By Julia Guerrein, Editor-in-Chief
[This article will be updated to reflect new developments.]
After much discussion and deliberation, the VLS administration officially announced the implementation of a pass/fail grading policy for the spring 2020 semester.
In light of campus closure and movement to online classes for the remainder of the spring semester, many members of the VLS community were concerned with the fairness of using the normal letter grading system.
Soon after the announcement that classes would be online for the rest of the semester, a petition was created on Change.org to gather signatures in favor of changing grades to pass/fail. The petition explained that a variety of issues can occur due to the pandemic, such as unreliable internet, relocation, and health issues.
Combined with the transition to online classes, the petition argued this will likely take a toll on students’ academic performance. Therefore, the petition said, letter grades would not be an accurate representation of students’ capabilities. Additionally, the petition cited other law schools that switched to pass/fail, such as Harvard and Cornell.
Soon after the petition launched, Student Bar Association President Raynald “Ray” Carre sent a survey to the VLS community to gather opinions regarding the grading policy. About 335 people answered the survey, and the favorite choice for grading was switching to an optional pass/fail for spring 2020, rather than maintaining letter grades or having a mandatory pass/fail.
On March 26, Vice Dean for Students Beth McCormack announced the faculty approved a default pass/fail grading system for the spring 2020 semester. Even though the default is pass/fail, students are able to opt for letter grades on their transcripts. Students need to notify the Registrar’s office by midnight on Apr. 30 if they wish to have letter grades. Regardless, all classes that are normally graded as pass/fail are still pass/fail, and any courses completed before spring break will still have letter grades.
In light of the grading change, the Law Review and the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law (VJEL) will only be looking at 1L grades from first semester for the grade-on competition.
In an email, 2020-21 Law Review editor-in-chief Sara Gaylon encouraged students to complete the write-on competition.
Deans McCormack and Lewis are holding a series of open meetings to answer questions and discuss the new grading system. Recordings and links for the sessions can be accessed through Teams.
[Disclaimer: Publisher Arielle King was involved with the Change.org petition.]