Maryland Carey Law joins peers nationwide choosing pass/fail for spring semester

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law is adopting pass/fail grading policy for the 2020 spring semester. The announcement was made in an email to students on Thursday, March 27. 

“This was a difficult decisionthere is no perfect solution,” said Maryland Carey Law Dean Donald B. Tobin. “We know the COVID-19 crisis is impacting our students dramatically, for some, severely. After careful deliberation, we concluded that pass/fail is the most equitable choice.” 

Maryland Carey Law joins law schools across the country, including Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, Ohio State, Wake Forest, Florida State, and Boston College in switching to pass/fail grading for the spring. And as each day in the COVID-19 crisis passes, more and more law schools are following. This wave suggests that employers will be flexible when considering students grades in the hiring process, as transcripts from New England to California will look similar. 

During the week of March 16-20, the law school’s Administrative Committee worked tirelessly to research grading possibilities based on recognition that in these extraordinary circumstances, the policy in place would not function fairly. 

"I tasked the Administrative Committee with investigating an alternative grading plan because normal life has been upended causing unthinkable burdens and stressors on our students, said Tobin. 

Not only was there student representation on the committee, but the group also solicited input from the student body, with many weighing in on the grading issue. 

On Wednesday, March 25, the Administrative Committee presented to the Faculty Council a series of grading options, which included moving to pass/fail, giving students the choice to be graded or to pick the pass/fail option, and keeping the existing policy in place. The council deliberated for two days, with a vote late on Thursday. 

When classes at Maryland Carey Law went online beginning March 23, there were only three weeks of instruction remaining before exams. This eased the way for the policy to allow for some exceptions to pass/fail gradingSome courses, including clinics and legal research classeswhich had completed at least 75% of their evaluation prior to the COVID-19 disruptionwill not convert to pass/fail. 

 “We expect most students will welcome our decision to enact a pass/fail grading policy for this semesterthough others will feel it is unfair,” said Tobin. “We used our best judgment to create the fairest system we could under extremely challenging circumstances.”  

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