Ivy League schools drop dean's list honors 'given the stress'

“To say that the removal is alleviating stress with students, I don’t think I see the link quite there.”

The University of Pennsylvania made the decision to suspend awarding Dean's List recognition to high achieving students to accommodate students who “felt pressure to continue taking courses for a letter grade.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic plaguing the country, Ivy League universities are altering their grading policies for the spring semester. Now, at least two of these prestigious schools have announced they will not be honoring students with Dean’s List distinctions this semester.

The University of Pennsylvania announced earlier in April that it will suspend the awarding of the Dean’s List for the 2019-2020 academic year. 

“We have heard concerns from students about feeling pressure to continue taking courses for a letter grade. Therefore, we have also decided to suspend awarding Dean’s List for the 2019-2020 academic year,” Provost Wendell Pritchett stated in a school-wide email.

“We know some of you will find this news disappointing. However, there will be a notation placed on every undergraduate’s transcript to recognize and honor the extraordinary disruption to the Spring 2020 term and the changes in academic policies,” added Pritchett. “While we expect that graduate schools and employers will take a holistic approach to reviewing students’ records, we want to ensure we have done what we can to note these policy changes on your academic records.”

[RELATED: Harvard moves to ‘emergency’ grading during coronavirus pandemic]

According to the school’s website, in order to be awarded Dean’s List at the University of Pennsylvania, a student must meet the following requirements:

  • Combined GPA of 3.7 for the fall and spring semesters
  • Completed 6 or more credit units for letter grades

  • Received no grades lower than C

  • Completed all courses on time with no Incompletes, NRs, or GRs

Any student who meets the above requirements would ordinarily receive a Dean’s List citation on their transcript-- but not this year. 

[RELATED: All eight Ivy League schools have adopted lax grading policies]

Edward Jiang, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania started a petition protesting the school’s decision. “The removal of Dean’s List for the 2019-20 academic year would be a great disappointment to Penn students who have dedicated efforts to their academics in these difficult times” the petition states.

“The removal of Dean’s List doesn’t do anything to provide more resources for those students who are struggling,” Jiang said in an interview with the university’s newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. “To say that the removal is alleviating stress with students, I don’t think I see the link quite there.”

Cornell University is also suspending the awarding of Dean’s List honors for the academic year. “Dean’s List for Spring 2020 semester will be suspended given the unprecedented situation,” reads an announcement on the university website.

Cornell’s messaging echos that of Penn. “While we understand this is a disappointment to some, this is the most equitable solution and is intended to help students not make the choice to keep courses as graded given the stress and challenges of this term and virtual instruction,” explains Cornell.

[RELATED: Ivy League students demand laxed grading system to alleviate ‘stress’]

Penn’s decision was announced concurrently with the university’s decision to extend the deadline to undergraduate students to “opt-in” to take classes on a pass/fail option as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the university to switch all courses to online learning. Unlike some other Ivy League Institutions, the University of Pennsylvania is not mandating all courses to be changed to the pass/fail grading system. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @chris_tremoglie