Bates College Student Government’s Oliver Farnum ’19 and Nicole Bermudez ’16 worked to accelerate efforts to reform Bates’ current pass/fail policy this year. The most common issue arises when students realize that they are doing well in their pass/fail course, but have already committed to a non-letter grade. Now, students have the ability to change back to a letter grade from pass/fail up until the last day to drop a class. The new policy will begin in the Fall 2016 semester. The Student interviewed Bermudez to understand the motives behind this decision.

The Student: What prompted you to initiate the new pass/fail registration timeline?

Nicole Bermudez: This pass/fail policy proposal actually started about two years ago when Alyssa Morgosh was the Student Body President. I believe she initiated the creation of an ad hoc committee to get this proposal started. After I returned from my study abroad this fall, I learned that the proposal was not approved yet so I wanted Student Government to move forward with it this year. We also felt that the previous pass/fail policies were outdated and much more restrictive compared to those of our peer institutions.

TS: Can you describe what the process has been like?

NB: The process has been long and more challenging than expected. It was hard to find who to go to at first because there were changes made to faculty committees in charge of various academic matters in the past few years. When the proposal process first started a few years ago, the Education Policy Committee was in charge of things like this, but another committee that did not have any student members recently replaced it. We also had to wait to be put on the agenda for the faculty meetings, which are held only once a month. Once we presented at the faculty meeting, we had to wait until the next month for the proposal to be voted on by the faculty. Recently, the Academic Affairs Liaison position was created so students could have other students to go to if they have questions or proposals related to Academic Affairs, so processes such as this one are more manageable and accessible to take on.

TS: What are the new changes that will take place and when?

NB: With this change, students can decide to pass/fail a course within the typical 1.5/2 week add period. However, students have the option to change this pass/fail grading option to a letter grade up until the last day to drop a course (usually around 6 weeks). This does not allow students to switch from a letter grade to pass/fail grading option, only from a pass/fail grading option to a letter grade.

TS: Who else did you work with on the Student Government to pass this new legislation?

NB: Two other student senators provided some comments and suggestions to the proposal draft. Student Government members also gave us suggestions after Oliver and I practiced for the faculty meeting at one of the Senate meetings.

TS: When did the Student Government first decide to work on passing this new legislation?

NB: During Alyssa Morgosh’s term in 2014, I believe. Then the proposal was not brought up again until the second semester of Berto Diaz’s term when I mentioned it to Student Government again after returning from abroad.

Farnum and Bermudez are both members of the Student Liaisons to the Academic Affairs Committee for which they were appointed temporarily. Bermudez will be graduating this year and Farnum was appointed for this semester only. Therefore, it is encouraged that students apply for the aforementioned position for next year.