NYU School of Law Shifts to Mandatory Pass/Fail

After NYU School of Law supported the implementation of mandatory pass/fail policy, the administration put it into place, making grading for nearly all courses pass/fail.

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Nina Schifano

The Vanderbilt Hall on Washington Square S hosts the NYU Law School. NYU’s School of Law has switched to a pass/fail grading system. (Photo by Nina Schifano)

By Nick Mead, Deputy News Editor

The NYU School of Law shifted to a mandatory pass/fail grading model for the remainder of the Spring semester as of Wednesday, March 25. 

This decision was made based on the recommendation of law students, who overwhelmingly supported the change.

“The administration looked to us,” Kevin Tupper, a student in his final year at NYU Law and the president of the Student Bar Association — NYU Law’s student government — said. “Recognizing that this is a divisive issue without a clear choice, they looked to us to find out what the student perspective was.”

As of now, NYU School of Law is the only NYU school to implement such a policy. While the remainder of NYU schools have extended the date to May 12 to opt for pass/fail and have come out as being more lenient toward degree requirements, they have yet to make pass/fail mandatory.

Tupper said that the initial discussion of whether to move to mandatory or optional pass/fail grading was divisive, so the Student Bar Association created a survey, compiled the data and sent it to the administration, who adopted the survey’s recommendation as its policy. Tupper said roughly two-thirds of respondents supported mandatory pass/fail. 

Now, all Law School transcripts for this semester will be annotated to show to future employers that students’ pass/fail grades weren’t a result of their own decisions, an email from the Law School stated.

The only exceptions are several classes for which grades have already been awarded. Additionally, the Master of Science in Cybersecurity Risk and Strategy program, a one-year program offered jointly by NYU Law and NYU Tandon, will also be excused from this system.

“There were people who felt they needed grades for employment, people who felt they were getting cheated out of a grade and I’m sympathetic to that point of view,” Tupper said. 

Yet, taking into account the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 on students, Tupper maintains that the administration’s decision was the right one.

“When we were discussing what to do, we heard so many stories about people who had been so heavily affected by it, people who’d had loved ones die, fall ill or who were symptomatic themselves,” Tupper said. “The wide range of stories that came to light made it clear that there needed to be a solution across the board, to ensure that students weren’t being tested on their ability to cope with COVID. Mandatory pass/fail was the only solution that could do that.”

Lucy Trieshmann, a first-year Law student supported NYU Law administration’s decision as well. 

“I think it was the only ethical choice that the university had,” Trieshmann said. “For most classes, we’re on a curve, so only so many students can get an A or a B. To put that kind of standard on students when the playing field has changed so drastically due to circumstances outside of our control would not have been fair.”

Despite the possibility of future employers frowning upon the marks she received for this semester as per the policy, Trieshmann said she isn’t opposed to the decision. 

“I would never want to get an A at the expense of my classmates,” she said. “I’d never want to use their hardship to improve my own grade. Even if it had negative career impacts, later on, I’d still vote for mandatory pass/fail.”

A version of this article appears in the Monday, April 20, 2020, e-print edition. Email Nick Mead at [email protected]