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Another Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory Optional Semester

After an all-faculty vote on Oct. 14, students at the College are now permitted to decide if they want to take a course satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) until Nov. 24. Courses taken S/U can now be counted towards distribution requirements, and will not count towards the 16 credit limit normally imposed on S/U courses.

This policy is a continuation of a similar policy implemented in the spring of 2020 following the closing of campus in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Josh Brause `23, Class of 2023 co-president on the Student Government Association (SGA), advocated for this policy by putting forth a motion to SGA to deliver a policy recommendation to the faculty.

As Brause sees it, this policy is integral to helping the College maintain its goal of striving towards academic equity.

“We wanted to present something that dealt with the issue of how many students felt like they were being graded at such a level that their peers who really had the privilege to not deal with the things they were dealing with, whether that be through wealth or through luck, or through anything really,” Brause said.

The motion was unanimously passed by SGA. The policy recommended allowing students to wait until the last day of classes, Nov. 24, to declare their classes S/U or graded and also to allow students to count S/U courses towards their major or minor. The latter of these requests has been met with mixed responses from various departments.

A survey of 39 Colby students found that only two of the students’ major departments have confirmed that they will accept courses declared S/U. Both of these students were Anthropology majors.

Departments that have decided to not accept S/U courses towards their majors include Biology, Environmental Science, Philosophy, Government, and Economics.

In an email to The Colby Echo, Michael Donihue, the head of the Economics Department, said the department has maintained the belief that allowing students to take courses S/U may result in lower overall performance from students.

“Our experience at the time of our decision to implement this policy was that the S/U declaration, in our elective courses in particular, often resulted in ‘negative externalities’ in terms of widening the diversity of engagement, effort and learning among our students,” Donihue said.

In addition, Donihue noted that the Economics department allows students to count any elective course where they have received a C- grade or higher towards the major, which is the same threshold for a class to qualify as Satisfactory.

The news of this policy comes as a relief to many students at this time. With many students facing external stressors in their day-to-day lives, having a potential relief on their academic workload could serve as a much-needed support.

In an email interview with Billy Chizmar `21, Chizmar said that “kids shouldn’t destroy themselves over maintaining their GPA in order to compete in the most volatile job market in quite a while. The world is just too much right now.”

The last day to declare classes S/U is Nov. 24, the last day of classes, as requested in the SGA recommendation. Along with the announcement of the new S/U policy came a revision of the Jan Plan policy: the requirement for students of the Classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023 has been lowered from three Jan Plans to two, and students of the Class of 2024 are not required to take a Jan Plan this year, as first years are usually required to do.


~ Sonia Lachter and Carter Feiss `22

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