Responding to our times: proposed changes in grading policy (and beyond)

March 21, 2020

Dear COL Community,
 
We have all been adjusting, at high speed, to a dramatic and still-evolving new reality.  That is evidenced most immediately by our move to online courses and online office hours, and more generally the challenge of sustaining a warm, personal and supportive community through screens and phones.  

One important element has been our collective conversation around grading.  That conversation has now been overtaken by events: UA leadership had earlier made room for our COL conversation, knowing about the trend towards Pass/No Pass among other US law schools, and about the distinctive characteristics of professional degrees.  As many of you know, the faculty was set to consider a new policy on Tuesday.

Now a university-wide grading policy has been issued.  We are part of many communities.  And all of those communities are adjusting rapidly, as we are.  In this case, aligning with the university policy, with some adjustments for our particular professional community, now seems to be the best path.

For some this will come as welcome news.  For others it may be disappointing.  I encourage you to view all proposals, changes, and ultimate decisions in the most generous and sympathetic light possible, and to remember that none of us can see all the costs or benefits of any particular choice.  We will get through this together if we each remember to act in good faith, assuming and indeed knowing that others are as well, even if we might have preferred a different decision.  

Again welcoming the wide-ranging, thoughtful and respectful input that has so far defined our community response, the revised request to the curriculum committee, and to the faculty (who must decide on additional changes in grading policy) follows:

  • as a matter of respect and reasonable uniformity, we should apply the general UA policy on grading in response to the coronavirus;
  • in recognition of the disparate impacts of all the changes we face in our professional and personal lives, known and unknown at this point, we will suspend the grading curve (1L) and mandatory GPA median range (upper division) for all classes, and expect faculty to continue to grade with wisdom;
  • ranking, which has always provided at best the roughest of signals, will be suspended until further notice;
  • we know this raises a host of issues, and more you will help us identify, and we will together work out answers to each of those in the days ahead;
  • we will work closely with each of you and employers to help provide the strongest and most relevant information to legal employers going forward.

This will not be the last issue on which we have spirited and respectful debate.  It will not be the most serious challenge we face.

Again, if we each think about both ourselves and each other, listen closely to each other, and support each other, we will all emerge from these unnerving times in a strong place.
 
Marc