‘Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory’ grade policy added as part of pandemic adjustments

The Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center (AGC) at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Nov. 5, 2021. Eddie Dong/The Occidental

The Academic Planning Committee (APC) implemented a new grading policy for Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 that allows students to switch one class from a letter grade to a new “Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory” metric. Satisfactory, per Occidental’s new standards, can be granted to students who opt into the policy and would receive a grade of D or higher in the class otherwise. Students can request this change at any point before the last day of classes, Dec. 3, for Fall 2021. A grade of satisfactory counts for major, minor or core requirements.

Registrar James Herr said the newly implemented pandemic-related grading policy adjustment is different from the policy during Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, when classes were online. During those semesters, the Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) policy required a C or higher and allowed students to choose CR/NC until the last day of classes, Herr said. CR/NC still exists, but the deadline is now four weeks into the semester, as it was pre-pandemic, Herr said. The policy was originally adjusted in Fall 2021 due to the transition back to in-person learning, Herr said.

“This current academic year, the goal of the committee was to transition back to our regular academic policies,” Herr said. “But we also recognize that just immediately switching back to our regular policies was probably not the right way to go — that we needed to provide some kind of transitional move back to our regular policies.”

Anna Thomas (junior) said she was frustrated to not have the ability to make an informed decision about choosing a grading scale with more information about her final exam grades.

Herr said that the deadline to switch to Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory on the last day of classes is for equity reasons. When the deadline is on the last day of finals, Herr said, then students with exams late into the finals period might not have grades back in time, while other, luckier students, might already have them.

Thomas also said she worried how graduate schools would judge a grade of “Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory.”

Herr said he encourages students to reach out to graduate schools directly and ask how they will interpret different grading scales, and also to refer to the FAQ on the Occidental College website regarding the COVID-19-related policy adjustments.

Hannah Christensen (sophomore), Associated Students of Occidental (ASOC) senate director of academic affairs, encouraged students to stay aware of grading policy changes.

“I don’t think enough students know, because you really have to go dig on the website,” Christensen said. “Obviously I do that because that’s part of my job, but a lot of students don’t know these policies exist.”

Christensen said she is working to move communications to platforms like Instagram in order for academic policy information to reach a wider audience, rather than emails alone.