What's in a Grade? Maintaining the Wellbeing of Students

Alex Criner '16

Contributing Writer

In a stunning turn of events, President McCartney issued a statement informing students that Smith’s administration elected to remove the grading system. The decision came after the counseling center declared they could not find any suitable applicants to join the staff, even so far as intimating that Smith’s own School of Social Work had no viable candidates to handle the caseload. With an overworked and overbooked staff, the administration decided it was in the students’ best interest to remove the grading system completely.

The unprecedented decision is modeled after Hampshire College’s grading policy. In fact, President McCartney stated that Smith was working diligently with Hampshire College’s administration in order to make this a smooth transition. The new policy is going to change a lot for Smith. Instead of grades, professors will submit written evaluations of students’ work ethic and progress throughout the course. There’s also a plan in place to create smaller courses to minimize the number of students each professor has to write evaluations for at the end of each semester.

Students and faculty were shocked to hear this news. One professor, who preferred to remain anonymous, hinted that the staff had no idea this was even a possibility and said that many faculty members were upset they would have to write evaluations for each individual student.

When students were told about the decision, many became even more anxious, asking, “How can I get into grad school with no GPA?” However, a few students were ecstatic because they no longer had to put any effort into their courses. Alumnae have also responded to the decision, sending letters and emails to the president voicing their disapproval, saying that Smith will no longer be the premier institution it was and questioning what other changes will occur. Currently, the Alumnae House is looking for more students to answer the phones to reassure alumnae that all is well.

Since this decision affects both faculty and students, a few have questioned the validity of a decision that didn’t include a vote from both parties. A protest is going to happen on the steps of College Hall. Others have started a petition to get the administration to reverse the decision. While the president said the administration hopes students will be less anxiety-ridden and more relaxed during the upcoming year, some wonder whether there are really no qualified individuals to staff the counseling center. Some students have wondered if Smith just forgot to budget for new staff with the new equipment.

The decision shows that, to the administration, students are more than a numerical grade. Maintaining educational drive and improved mental health is the most important part of Smith, and they want students to do their very best to succeed. It’s also important to note that they’ve promised no more changes for next year.