The Keene State College Senate passed a new grading policy on April 8 that allows students to choose whether they want a letter grade or a pass/no pass grade.
The new policy is in response to students facing unexpected and challenging obstacles as they finish the spring semester away from campus amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. After support was garnered for a petition to change Keene State’s grading policy to a pass/no pass system, the college began discussions regarding a new policy.
According to Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ockle Johnson, the new grading policy allows students to choose for each of their classes whether they want a letter grade or a pass/no pass assessment. Students have until May 8 at 11:59 p.m. to choose what type of grade they wish to receive, Johnson said.
“Students, in general, were very supportive of this policy according to our survey prior to passage,” Johnson said. “So far we have about 440 course requests for the pass/no pass option.”
In the survey Johnson mentioned, two-thirds of students supported a pass/no pass option while only one-sixth of students surveyed supported maintaining the standard grading system. Keene State junior Tyler daRosa said he was “super happy” the college made the decision to pass the new grading policy.
“I think it was very important for the school to do this, as we didn’t sign up for online learning and I don’t think our grades should suffer because of that,” daRosa said.
Keene State College President Melinda Treadwell said the decision to provide students with a choice was made because each student has been affected differently during the transfer to online classes.
“If there’s an issue finding an internet connection, we didn’t want those students to feel isolated, but for students who feel comfortable we didn’t want them to lose their GPA,” Treadwell said. “This time has been disruptive for everyone and we didn’t want students to feel the stress of GPA.”
daRosa said that although he has been vocal about the pass/no pass system, he thinks it is best the school decided to make it optional for all students.
“There are plenty of people that need a letter grade because they need to get their GPA up and I don’t think it would be fair to those people to not give them the option to have a letter grade,” DaRosa said.
Before students make the decision whether they want a letter grade or a pass/no pass assessment, Johnson said there are a few things they should consider. He said that students should consider whether their performance has been negatively affected this semester and if they anticipate receiving a low grade they should choose a pass/no pass option. However, Johnson added that there are also reasons to maintain a letter grade.
“There is certainly value in having a letter grade in a required major course for future employment and graduate school application purposes,” Johnson said.
Hunter Oberst can be contacted at