Administration extends pass/fail grading deadline to April 1 for all undergraduate students

In the past, the deadline was at the end of the second week of classes, although no such option was available during the Fall 2020 semester.


Emery Little

A student studies on Curry Field by Wilson Hall. (Hustler Multimedia/Emery Little)

Jonathan Liu, Deputy News Editor

UPDATE: This article now clarifies that faculty from each of the four undergraduate colleges and schools voted to institute the change, and the email states that their decision will be effective immediately.

The Spring 2021 semester will offer an extended pass/fail grading deadline of April 1, per an email from Provost Susan Wente and Vice Provost Vanessa Beasley sent at approximately 10 a.m. CST.

The email states that the change is effective immediately and will coincide with the mid-semester withdrawal deadline. The faculty from each of the four undergraduate colleges and schools voted to institute the change to provide students ample time in their learning environments before deciding whether to elect for pass/fail grading.

Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG) Fourth-Year Senators Syed Rahman and Aaron Hunt led the initiative for optional pass/fail grading during the Fall 2020 semester, which was met with a contrary response from the university. Hunt said that the administration wasn’t ready for an academic turnaround at the time, and despite VSG’s push, the Office of the University Registrar and other administrators voiced that they did not believe such a change was in the best interest of the student body.

32.9 percent of all undergraduates responded to VSG’s survey for optional pass/fail grading during the Fall 2020 semester. (Hustler Multimedia/Emery Little)

According to VSG’s survey report during the Fall 2020 semester—which received 2,321 undergraduate student responses—over 70 percent of students preferred an optional pass/fail grading option. In addition, 94.5 percent of respondents indicated some sort of pass/fail was preferred.

During the previous Spring 2020 semester, the university elected to extend the pass/fail grading deadline from Jan. 20 to April 10.

Despite the administration’s decision to not offer pass/fail grading during the Fall 2020 semester, Hunt credits them for listening to students who continued to voice their concerns across campus into the Spring 2021 semester.

“I remember walking away from our final call when they said, ‘You’ve really given us something to re-examine,’” Hunt said. “At the end of the day, we can only do so much, but it came down to the 2,321 students who showed their support, and it’s as much of a win for them as it is for us.”

Associate deans from the undergraduate colleges and schools expressed their thoughts on the decision to extend the pass/fail grading deadline.

“When [we] met with the representatives of VSG to discuss pass/fail policies, we were impressed by the extensive work done to survey students and articulate sound arguments for change,” Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Science Roger Moore, Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Cynthia Paschal, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Anita Wager and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Melissa Rose said in an email to The Hustler. “The recommendation to extend the deadline to elect pass/fail resonated with us as not only helpful to students in this difficult year but one that would also have lasting benefit for future students.

Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chair Catherine McTamaney commented on how the change speaks to the close relationships shared among faculty and students in an email to The Hustler.

“It’s a testament to the ways in which our community can come together to keep each other healthy, physically, intellectually and mentally, and a strong example of an effort to support student agency without sacrificing the academic rigor of our classrooms,” McTamaney said.