Grading Switch Leads to Friction

Chalkboard with GPA Written

As the coronavirus epidemic continues to wreak havoc across the nation, law schools are being forced to decide whether they want to stick with a traditional grading system or shift to pass or fail approach.

Last week, we reported how top schools such as Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia are amongst many that have dropped traditional grades for pass/fail.

But not all law school are following suit. The University of Chicago became the first among the top 10 schools to stick to traditional grading, according to a new report by Law.com.

CRITICS OF PASS/FAIL

Not all law professors are taking the switch to pass/fail lightly. A number have criticized the switch, arguing that grades and class rank are critical to employment and extracurricular opportunities, Law.com reports.

“As we approach the new quarter, I and our faculty and administrators have given a great deal of thought to how to approach grading in a world where it is critically important that we continue to deliver excellent education,” Chicago Law Dean Thomas Miles tells his students in an email. “To that end, we intend at this time to maintain the status quo on grades at the Law School for the spring quarter. We will continue to watch developments in the next few weeks, and will make adjustments if the situation warrants.”

PROPONENTS OF PASS/FAIL

Others have argued that pass/fail is a necessary equalizer given the current pandemic.

For example, some students may have children to look after or face other complications from COVID-19 forcing them to prioritize.

“People are very pissed,” a third-year Chicago law student Wednesday, who spoke on condition of anonymity, tells Law.com. “Mainly, people are pissed at Chicago because the administration doesn’t seem to really care about how this is going to disparately impact people—whether it’s lower socio-economic classes, those caring for loved ones, or those who just don’t have reliable Internet.”

Sources: Law.com, Tipping the Scales

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