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P/D/F Policy: Bwog Staff Opines

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All the cool kids have been talking about the mandatory freshman P/D/F policy that’s circling the administration rounds, waiting to become official mandate. The Spec editorial board has officially endorsed the policy, and Bwog’s official classroom/dorm room census has heard opinions ranging from ecstatic to furious. To throw in our two cents to the conversation, a few of Bwog’s staffers have opined away. Note: this is not Bwog’s official endorsement or rejection of the P/D/F policy, and the opinions expressed below are not Bwog’s; they are people who write for Bwog’s. Bwog has no single stance because websites don’t have stances, or thoughts in general.

Alexandra Svokos, EIC:

I realize that I hold an austere perspective on academic rigor.  I went to a grueling magnet high school, where stress was expected and I spent 4 years averaging 4.5 hours of sleep nightly.  At the end of freshman year, advisors told a friend, who had been earning Cs and Ds, that it wasn’t the place for him. He was asked to transfer out and did so. My roommate’s (again, magnet) school was worse, with a policy that anyone with a below 3.0 GPA was kicked out.  Like Columbia, my high school had people from a variety of backgrounds in previous education standards thrown into a pool of high expectations and intellectual challenges, and I came to love and appreciate this approach (go ahead, insert Stockholm Syndrome joke here) as I, and a majority of my classmates, learned to adjust and work harder than we had ever before.

I came to Columbia because (perhaps masochistically) I wanted to continue to be in an academically demanding environment.  Mandatory P/D/F would ineluctably weaken Columbia’s rigor (why push for the A when all you need is a C?), and would have affected my decision to come here.  I didn’t come to an Ivy League institution, #4 in the nation, to not work hard and be remarkably challenged.  I wasn’t expecting a stress-free (or even stress-light) academic experience, and neither should any prospective Columbia student.  [If that’s too much to handle, to paraphrase my high school advisors, maybe this isn’t the place for you.]

Alexandra Avvocato, managing editor:

Like everyone who’s currently at Columbia, I came here well aware of the high-stress culture within a high-stress city — and if I didn’t know that when applying, the dire warnings from my family, classmates, and high school teachers wouldn’t have let me escape in ignorance. Precisely because of the stress of Columbia and the amount of work I’m putting into my classes and assignments, I appreciate the accurate, if sometimes painful, feedback on and knowledge of my quality of work. My CC class’s brief debate yesterday put forth that with a first semester P/D/F policy, students would be able to learn how to actually write and do work without the never-ending dread of a GPA “doomed from the start.” My response to that line of thought: you might learn that your writing is a Pass rather than a Fail, and have a great time with your friends first semester in the wide comfort of that pass, but the next semester won’t feel so great when you realize that that Pass is actually a C — or whatever level is the level you’re not happy with; there’s nothing wrong with a C or a D if it’s making you happy.

But based on all the angst about stress at Columbia, most students who need the lower stress of P/F would not be happy with C’s. I have no doubt that first-semester freshmen will still commit to their work under Pass/Fail — that’s been proven at other schools. I don’t think that will significantly reduce the “stress culture” at Columbia for either that first semester or for the next seven semesters. Every person responds to stress in their individual way that a grading policy won’t do much to change: I know of more than one person juggling six classes, several extracurriculars, and an internship who is less stressed and manages their time better than a person who’s taking four classes and nothing else. You choose how to deal with your stress, and you should make your own choices about how to lower your stress, not be told how to do it.

Specific problems that the P/D/F policy hasn’t yet fully addressed include classes for the major. If I’m pursuing a specific major, it’s clearly because I enjoy it and think I have some talent in that field. Why would I want to avoid knowing where I am in those given classes? Beyond any masochistic tendencies, I may simply want the reward of knowing what I’ve accomplished — or haven’t accomplished — in an area I’m so committed to. And as for the argument that a P/D/F policy will allow you to do the exact opposite, or shop around for possible majors or subjects you’re not familiar with — how are you going to know how well you’ve learned the subject or if you want to keep pursuing it if you have no idea how you’ve done after a semester?

Just a “Pass” or a “Fail” wouldn’t leave me with a more relaxed enjoyment of the course; I’d be left frustrated and uncertain of where I stood. I’d rather risk a lower GPA than have little idea of what my work produced — and to be honest, I’m far more stressed when I don’t know something than when I do, no matter how potentially shitty the answer.

Sarah Thompson, daily editor:

I’m one of those people who lived in a poor region of Appalachia, where there was a stronger emphasis on the quality of biscuits over the quality of education. I theoretically could have been one of those students who needed to be eased into the rigors of Ivy League academic life—easing in, however, would’ve been so much harder without grades to serve as a benchmark of how I was doing! I arrived at Columbia knowing that the work would be difficult, and everyone who arrives here should know that and be able to adjust their habits accordingly.

Multiple advisors told me how to reduce stress: I should drop a class, and not bother myself with taking over four courses my first semester. I made a conscious choice to challenge myself, which allowed me to increase my extracurricular commitments in the second semester, as I already knew how to handle five normal classes; I would have been hesitant to do so if any of my classes first semester had been pass/fail. The system in place gives students the choice of reducing their workload with the pass/fail option and the option of taking fewer credits. Rather than mandate all non-Core classes be pass/fail, or impose a credit limit, why not make those other options better known, and let students at an Ivy League institution challenge themselves and see their own progress? Why not have students meet with CPS during NSOP to talk about managing stress? I admire the increasing commitment to reducing campus-wide stress, but students know themselves better than the university knows them.

Serena Solin, daily editor:

The P/D/F policy does not come from a bad place. It is immensely obvious to me as a second-semester freshman that everyone is stressed, and that first semester freshmen have it perhaps worst of all because of the transition from high school. And even students who came from academically demanding high schools are going to have a hard time first semester because college is, by nature, unlike high school. Stress weighs heavy on the entire student population and efforts to make stress manageable are admirable. Fine.

But the P/D/F policy was invented to do one thing: to “cushion the blow of potentially sub-par academic performance during the first semester.” The step that makes no sense to me is the step between cushioning—essentially babying—and stress alleviation.

First of all, the policy would apply only to non-Core and non-language classes, and all students at Columbia already have one free pass/fail per semester. Assuming that the average first-semester freshman takes between four and five classes, that’s one or two extra classes. Assuming that most students at Columbia are “grade-motivated,” or at least grade-oriented, the P/D/F policy would dissolve into one or two extra Ps on a mostly empty transcript. Assuming that no external higher-up will look critically at this transcript—which is unlikely—the policy would, at best, have basically no effect on first semester freshmen. The policy would, however, enforce the idea that first semester should be a transition period between college and high school. I think it is assumed in the policy that most, if not all, of the first semester freshmen would pass the classes to which this policy applies. The point of the policy is to make first semester academically easier. I don’t know if I’m the only one who thinks this is insulting.

The part of the policy nobody seems to be talking about (lowering the maximum number of first-semester credits to 18) makes sense to me. I know that I overreached my first semester, but realized it fast enough to drop the classes I couldn’t handle. I don’t think that will make freshman year any less stressful, but I do think it will help us make smarter decisions, which should be the point. Making every class P/D/F will encourage incoming freshmen to gamble because there will be no consequences, and the transition into consequences—which is inevitable, unless Columbia decides to remove grades altogether—will still come, just a semester later than it should have.

As a freshman coming into Columbia from a fairly rigorous high school, what I looked forward to most was that I would no longer be treated like a child. Nobody was going to go out of their way to make my academic career any easier. I think that most students at Columbia came into college with the same expectations. Your first semester of college does not automatically make you an adult, but it does indicate that you should be well on your way. The P/D/F policy assumes that first-semester freshmen are not prepared to handle the course loads they are going to take on. The policy assumes that incoming freshmen are unadvised and stupid, which is only true to the extent that everyone coming into Columbia is new. The policy overestimates how new we are. It assumes that we have no help. It assumes that we do not know our limits. It assumes that we should have some kind of privilege because we are not as capable as older students, when in fact older students became capable because they were once our age, and learned to deal with the pressure of our university. It assumes that the stress of Columbia is exponentially more intense than what we handled in high school, which is in my experience so far, not true. The P/D/F policy says that first semester freshmen are not prepared for non-freshmen (i.e., non-Core) classes. If Columbia is going to assume that we can’t handle what it has to offer before we even get there, why are we here in the first place?

Fail/pass via Shutterstock

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84 Comments

  1. Anonymous  

    the first one just sounds like an admissions essay?

    • Also  

      "perspective Columbia student"... PROSPECTIVE

    • CC14  

      Funny how all the most vocal people who oppose PDF are also from backgrounds that required little or no adjustment to Columbia's standards and culture. Bravo to CCSC et al for being brave enough to change the fucked up culture of masochistic performative library lurking.

  2. Anonymous  

    To Alex's point, students would be able to see their grades unofficially on SSOL – they would know how much work they have to put in to get results they'd want during subsequent semesters.
    While it's fair to say that people should know how to plan their time in a way that allows them to achieve the grade results they want, not everyone comes to school armed with these skills. the policy would thus help students who need this extra training, while not significantly impacting those who would be perfectly fine taking all courses for credit.

    • Anonymous  

      I completely agree. I think this is great and would have provided me with a much smoother adjustment during my freshman fall. I almost took a semester off and don't get why people care if 2 classes are pass/fail for one semester.

    • Anonymous  

      I think the problem is not that the policy implications are egregious, but that the principle which motivates this change is one that makes academics a subsidiary consideration to this trendy notion of "wellness."

      • yea, but...  

        ...my gripes with "wellness" was that it was a buzz word. Now, something is being done, so why exactly are we upset if the trend is now actually meaningful. Just to be hipster and dislike it once it's popular?

        • Anonymous  

          Obviously not.

          I'm happy to see that student government is getting things done for a change even though I may disagree. Setting a good precedent for activity.

          But they are also setting a precedent for the principles behind action—namely that a minority's self-imposed problem should be fixed by regulating the actions of everyone. This policy would change very little if it weren't mandatory.

          I get that there is and will be a stigma against taking a sub-average course load. But I ask why we don't combat that stigma itself? Actively encourage a smaller course load in advising materials, for example.

          Personally, I'd go further and say that that stigma exists for a reason: because others can do better, and competition is good (for some, at least. For those others who don't like competition, then they shouldn't care about the stigma, no?). I'm dislike that the student government at a top undergraduate institution are caving to the pressures of academic pressure. That's what Brown is for. (kinda kidding, but not entirely)

          • Anonymous  

            Privileging the elite at the expense of those who don't come from rich prep schools is still a form of privilege that they get for 7 semesters...
            Are you really complaining about two covered grades in intro classes? Will your GPA drop more than .01 points cause mine would legitimately go up by .5

          • Anonymous  

            (dunno why I can't respond to the above, which was a response to me)

            I don't think you want to go down the road of calling regular grades "privileging the elites," as then you should support applying this same policy to everyone.

            I oppose the principle. I really don't give two shits about the effect on the GPA. I just don't want my Ivy League school making policy that compromises what high-achieving people can do because they are worried about less high-achieving people feeling bad. Obviously give everyone the resources they need. Please. But don't blatantly hinder the potential of people who can hit the ground running. Terrible precedent.

          • Anonymous  

            And I say that as someone who would be willing to bet a LOT of money (which I don't have) that I came in worse prepared than 95% of students. Shitty public high schools may not teach study skills, reading comprehension, or science, but they instill a sense of personal responsibility.

      • Anonymous  

        nobody said academics should eer be a subsidiary consideration. the idea is a healthy balance. pretty sure that's what wellness means, by definition.

    • lazy college senior

      Yall are pussies.

      If you can't deal with the "stress" of taking (god forbid) 18 credits and having a social life, YOU DON'T BELONG HERE. Go to an easier school. Columbia is SUPPOSED to be hard, and removing stress from every aspect of life is not always a good thing.

      Do you "need time to adjust"? Then shut the fuck up, pull your drunk self out of Mel's, and fucking study. And if you really can't deal with the pressure, then you get a couple Cs (after all, P/D/F wouldn't make a difference for those people who were TRULY struggling and, therefore, getting Ds or Fs). The thought that college students in New York are constantly bitching and moaning about how much pressure they're under really does prove to the rest of the world (you know, the people who work 60+ hour weeks at ACTUAL jobs, and then go home to feed their families) how out-of-touch Columbia students are.

      This student wellness project has gone way too fucking far--to the point that the headless chickens in CCSC are blindly slapping nanny policies on every student at a school that is supposed to be renowned for its academic rigor and competitiveness. It's ridiculous, and yall need to man the fuck up.

      tl;dr: Stop complaining about your "hard" classes. Shape up or ship out.

  3. Anonymous  

    I don't know every detail about it, but I agree that this P/D/F policy seems to be bullshit. If the new credit limit were in place when I got here, I wouldn't have been able to take the classes I picked for my freshman fall (I took LH, UW, a language, econ and math). To be honest, it was an easy semester (even coming from an ESL background).

    Ultimately this policy just reflects the victimization culture we see too often at Columbia. Can't handle stress? Don't worry about learning how to manage your time or dropping a class or two. Instead, Nanny Columbia restrict everyone from taking more classes even if they wanted to! Reality will hit you horribly hard your second semester, but who cares about that!?

    Columbia has made me sick and depressed more than once, but I raised my head, reorganized my schedule and learned that over-achievement doesn't correlate to happiness. My life has been much better since. In fact, I think that's one of the most valuable skills Columbia has taught me - to learn my limits through critical self-assessment. Don't take that away. I bet many peers, employers, alumni and professors would agree with me.

    • Anonymous  

      Personal responsibility?!? GASP

    • Anon  

      I agree with you. I think that if columbia wanted to do something like this p/d/f policy they should make it optional. I know if i had to p/d/f my non-core classes my gpa first semester would have been much worse (hard teacher in U writting and Lit hum can screw you over!).

    • Anonymous  

      I would ask that you not use the word "depressed" so lightly, especially in the context of well-being that is at the heart of this issue.

      • Anonymous  

        Excuse me, but do you even know me? Then STFU and don't pass judgment on my depression. For your information I was clinically depressed throughout most of middle school, so trust me: I don't use this word lightly.

        Indeed, it was a glimpse of those horrible times (accompanied by a mild alcoholic binge) that motivated me to radically review my schedule and priorities at Columbia. My advisor and friends suggested that I should take school more lightly, so I did. Now I have an awesome summer job, a decent enough GPA and consider myself really happy. A P/D/F policy will not solve the core problem that too many people here see themselves as victims and not masters of their destiny, and will come at the expense of other people who can be happy with different levels of stress.

        • seas'16  

          confused. I feel like it would give them a sense of control and freedom to discover how much they want to take on, like you found. It's empowerment, which is the opposite of victimization but something I agree with and think it takes most of us too long to find.

  4. CC'14  

    You guys are totally correct. Mandatory P/D/F is a terrible policy. My worst semester grades-wise was by far first semester freshman year. If I hadn't had that wake-up call, I wouldn't have stepped up my game, and improved my grades dramatically.

    • PDF Supporter  

      (i accidentally replied to the whole post below--this is a response, disregard that)

      Why isn't an unofficial grade an equally strong wakeup call? It's not like you don't know how you did--it's just that the grade doesn't end up on your transcript.

  5. Anonymous  

    So let me get this straight: the bwog staff complains this place is miserable, stressful, and unwelcoming, and then they complain that attempts to allow us to transition are evil. It's one semester and only a few classes. I doubt all these people did all their Lit Hum readings anyway, and some of these just sound elitist. We didn't all come from magnet schools.

    • Anon  

      Why force students into something for the sake of the few who need it less stressed? I have taken 22 credits a semester since freshmen year and don't find myself working too hard or stressed out(it just the type of person I am), why should a student like me get penalized because some students may get stressed first semester?

  6. CC'15  

    With regard to the credit limit, isn't Columbia's limit absurdly and unrealistically high? I think when I got here, I was pushed to do everything because that's all I knew from high school, and I never had a chance to figure out what's meaningful to me. Having a half a chance to take half a step back that is inline with other schools wouldn't be so terrible, and it sure as well would have allowed me to not lock myself in John Jay crying for many nights.

    • Anonymous  

      agreed. most harvard/yale students only take 4 classes, that's considered normal and average. 5 classes is heavy, 6 is god status.

    • Anonymous  

      You always had that option, though. Take 4 easy classes first semester, and PDF one.


      This policy makes it mandatory. THAT's what they are objecting to—the idea that we all have to be held back to help the minority that were already choosing not to help themselves.

    • Anonymous  

      Except as Columbia Students we sometimes need to take 5 or 6 classes in a semester, especially with all the Core requirements. Imagine going Pre-Med or being in SEAS (where the minimum recommended is 5 classes a semester). And how about taking electives outside of your major or required classes?

      I really don't think we should pander to the lowest denominator here.

      • Anonymous  

        Fine. While I think you could use a change of perspective most, perhaps you - mr. awesome - deserve to petition to take 65 credits your first semester. In all seriousness though, just petition or audit, no?

      • Anonymous  

        adhering to a similar course load that's considered normal at Harvard and Yale is not exactly the lowest common denominator.

  7. Anonymous

    Alexandra Svokos, you're a legacy student. This environment is built for silver spoon lickers like you. Get off your Ivy League high horse. Weed is wasted on horses.

  8. BSGS  

    Gross. (Entitlement)^Entitlement

  9. Anonymous  

    ugh. bwog's opinion (and let's not kid ourselves, this is bwog's opinion, when your EIC and senior writers all write a post on your home page criticizing something, how is that not the voice of the publication??) is just part of the tiresome, masochistic "i'm cooler/stronger/better because i'm more stressed than you" pissing contest culture that makes this school such a MISERABLE FUCKING PLACE TO BE. this has been going on for far too long, it pits students against each other, it makes us feel afraid to admit to any sort of weakness at all or take time to actually attend to personal needs that involve something besides grade-grubbing and unadulerated ambition, and it's NOT REAL LIFE. we don't become better people by mindlessly throwing ourselves into a stressful system. college isn't just about classes. PDF is there so that people can actually learn to be people not just stressed out robots. and seriously, chill, you have seven other semesters to be as cracked out and overworked as you want.

    • nope  

      @Anonymous:

      "college isn't just about classes"

      No, but it's a big part. I decided to go to Columbia to have a good time, to meet cool people, to be in NYC (woohoo!); but I principally chose to be here because I wanted to be academically challenged. I'm really not a fan of this assumption that if you're challenging yourself by taking a heavy course load, you're a "stressed out robot", "cracked out", or "masochistic" -- sometimes you're simply doing what you feel is appropriate for you.

      • Anonymous  

        Great. Then if you really just care about learning, who cares if your grade is covered?

      • CC '13  

        maybe you just managed to do it right. I feel like a stressed out robot, and I know a lot of other people who do too. And it doesn't seem crazy to say that Columbia, or its culture, or something, creates systematic pressures for people to spend their time here in ways that make them feel this way.

        • Anonymous  

          I totally agree that Columbia can be a stressful place. I think there's a sort of myth that the Columbia community is divided between superhuman students who don't experience stress and the other kids that do -- I think everyone faces stress whether you take four classes or six. I've had my own nights in Butler.

          I'm just not sure I'm convinced that this stress is significant at Columbia in a way that is endemic or unfair. I'm often stressed because I'm academically challenged, because my professors expect a lot for me, and I don't want to let them or myself down. It's a self-imposed stress that I'm not convinced is institutional.

          When I had my first meeting with my advisor, she told me to take it easy, informed me that I could take many classes P/D/F, that there were tutoring resources if I ever needed them. She informed me that it wasn't even mandatory to complete a major -- if I wanted to just do a concentration and the core, that would be fine. Every professor I've had has been very upfront with what they expect of me -- including outlining every assignment on the syllabus on the very first day, and telling me when I could meet with them in office hours.

          What are these systematic pressures? I don't want to deny that they exist, but if it's just a case of people feeling intimidated by what their classmates are attempting; I'm not sure it warrants such a broad institutional change.

  10. Anonymous  

    Also, don't we have 7 other semesters to eat each other limb for limb? Not really sure how this would deter someone from coming here. Maybe just take up 47 extracurriculars if you want a challenge.

  11. PDF Supporter  

    Why isn't an unofficial grade an equally strong wakeup call? It's not like you don't know how you did--it's just that the grade doesn't end up on your transcript.

  12. Anonymous  

    Why exactly are these opinions being published if they don't represent Bwog's stance? Shouldn't you just interview strangers rather than privilege yourselves with your own soap box. Many of you admit to be unknowledgeable about this (same here), so why not go for more diverse opinions if you are just arbitrarily collecting them? Though these opinions are diverse in that they contradict each other or complain for different reasons, they are unilaterally negative, when I've personally found no one who dislikes this idea (again: not all that informed though).

  13. re: alexandra s  

    "If that's too much to handle, to paraphrase my high school advisors, maybe this isn't the place for you.]"

    Okay, that really rubbed me the wrong way. If anything, it validates what the P/D/F proposal has been saying—that students at Columbia come from incredibly disparate backgrounds, with different tempos, experiences, expectations, etc., and some don't need to adjust as much as others. You've literally been conditioned to work well in the kind of particular environment Columbia offers. You thrive in it, and you probably think that a sadomasochist work attitude and highly stressful environments are in fact hallmarks of an elite institution. That's BS.

    I also went to a "prestigious" school (take that as you will) and our administrators were forever advising us to push for high goals and levels of achievement without sacrificing quality elements of wellness. Because I had also attended other high-stress schools in the past, Columbia didn't really throw me off and I continued doing my own thang; I was lucky in that regard. I had seen enough different school environments to feel comfortable and confident enough to take just four or five classes, get enough sleep, etc. etc. without feeling that I was doing something terribly wrong, but I came to realize that others didn't have that privilege. Attitudes like Alexandra's are exactly the kind we need to eradicate at Columbia, or at least knock down a few pegs—that you're somehow validated by how much you punish yourself in addition to your accomplishments, that you're not worthy otherwise. We don't need lots of talented and hardworking people undermining themselves by thinking that they "don't belong at Columbia" just because they don't see the point of being continually sleep-deprived for the whole of their undergraduate lives, or don't feel like conforming to absurdly meaningless stress standards.

    • Anonymous  

      Well, if Alexandra feels validated by how hard she works and that makes her happy, why don't you let her be? There are plenty of people like that at Columbia and, quite honestly, it's none of your business.

      Well, unless they rub it on your face. Fair enough. BUT in that case be mature enough to acknowledge people can handle different levels of stress and that's up to every one of us. At one point during my academic career I tried to sleep as little and work as hard as some of my most hardworking peers... But guess what: that didn't work! I was stressed and miserable until sucked it up, dropped a class and two extracurriculars I could care less about. Now I'm happy to work at my own pace and I know I can still be successful this way. So should you. Just don't stop everyone else from doing their thing, and grow up instead.

      • re: alexandra s  

        I have no problem with Alexandra's personal decisions regarding her own workload and commitments. Of course everyone should be able to march the beat of their own drum. I have a specific problem with her implying that every incoming first-year should be be expected to lead on a crazy academic life and that's somehow a meaningful qualifier for your value or worth as a student, and if you can't, get out. She doesn't even recognize that the insanity of her high school/Columbia is not necessarily a good arbiter of academic potential/success.

        And if she's using her own life measurements to define what Columbia should feel like for everyone else, then yeah, it did sort of does become my business.

        • Anonymous  

          Then that's the point where you start ignoring her because you know better. I just hope your comment means you don't believe in the P/D/F policy; otherwise you'd be hypocritical by saying "everyone should be able to march the beat of their own drum"and then advocating for a restriction of personal freedoms that isn't ambition-sensitive.

          • Lol dramatic much?  

            Giving an adjustment period isn't an infringement on someone's god-given right to kill themselves with work. The principle of this policy seems to be to allow greater freedom in choices and more time to self-evaluate. I'm sure anyone who realllly wanted as much stress as possible could still knock themselves the hell out.

        • Columbia's Dungeon Master

          "if she's using her own life measurements to define what Columbia should feel like for everyone else, then yeah, it did sort of does become my business."

          The core argument for p/d/f is logically inconsistent: 'Everyone comes from different backgrounds.' Agreed. 'Then, everyone should spend the first semester acclimatizing and not worry so much about grades.' That's inherently just your values becoming everyone else's business! And it presupposes that you know better than everyone else!

          But the main problem with p/d/f is that its stated goal is to reduce pressure on grades systematically. There's no denying that the Columbia system seems stacked against our "wellnesses" (whatever meaning that word still has). But the degree to which we expect a systematic solution to this is also the degree to which we are ceding personal responsibility for our "wellnesses". Which, true, we really shouldn't have to be completely responsible for our own health and sanity all the time. If I'm in a dungeon, most of my stress is probably because I'm in a dungeon and not because of some personal deficiency of ability to deal with stress. This is why the anti-p/d/f "Shape up or Ship out" argument is bad, because to a small extent it actually *is* the environment that needs to change. So maybe Columbia is a stress dungeon. But embarking down this road of calling our environment a stress dungeon doesn't seem effective for very long. As unsexy and harsh as it sounds, deciding how you want to deal with stress is just personal responsibility, and it's probably better to make that decision first-semester than to pretend it's not a decision, that the system should make everyone equal, and that we should banish stress from New York City. The arguments in favor of p/d/f seem to wear thin by trying to avoid acknowledging the unappealing truth that we have a lot of personal sovereignty and responsibility in dealing with stress at Columbia. We're not in a dungeon, so reforming the Columbia system to deal with stress is not the way to go.

          tl;dr: Is Columbia a stress-dungeon?

          • Anonymous  

            I think the whole point is that while your adjusting socially and living alone for the first time, you can build a supportive network for yourself in order to handle the stress to come in the future. Maybe get a new perspective too, but after reading this thread, at least this generation is probably hopeless.

  14. Yo, but law school admissions?  

    I know for a fact that law schools (and perhaps other kinds of grad schools) look down upon taking more than 1 or 2 classes PDF. Wouldn't this just hurt every single future law school applicant?

    • CC'16  

      Don't know how this would work at Columbia, but my friend goes to Swarthmore where they have first semester P/D/F, and she's pre-law. Pretty sure that if it's a mandatory policy, they can't look down on it, which is why no one would do this if it were optional. Think Hopkins also has this btw.

    • PDF Supporter  

      Law/med/grad/etc schools accept them if it's a school policy. As the other commenter said, Hopkins has it, as do MIT, Swarthmore, etc, and all of those schools seem to do fine on grad school admissions of all types.

      • Yo, guys why downvote me?  

        I wasn't sure about the implications so I asked....
        How would it be clear to grad schools or future employers that everyone is forced to P/D/F first semester? Would Columbia send a letter stipulating this? It seems like a lot of hassle.

  15. Anonymous  

    Love tracking the comments. Many of the supporters are posting like 3 times and the 1 guy in opposition is posting like 7 times.

  16. Anonymous  

    look a bunch of sanctimonious english majors lecturing about stress

  17. wah  

    Wish I could've gotten into Swarthmore or Hopkins for their p/d/f, but instead I'm stuck at Columbia. oh wait

  18. Sigh  

    As a counterpoint to bwog's " non-official' God, bwog is just a trashy piece of pseudo-journalism, I would like to say that i would love a PDF policy. Not everyone is a god like Alexandra, and some people have personal issues their first year. My first year, my roommate hated me, I packed and moved into another dorm in the middle of midterms and cried myself to sleep every night in John Jay for the next two months because I felt no one wanted me here. Even worse, I was miserable, soul-burningly homesick and sad. I would have relished a p/d/f policy that would have given me the opportunity to take different classes and shop around and try to see which one I liked without having to worry about grades, that would have given me space to adjust while i got used to being at columbia. Now, life is fine and things are going ok lately, but I think a p/d/f policy would be great to help people like me, like most of us, who would benefit from a little more time to readjust. I wouldn't agree with a pdf policy all 4 years, but one semester will not derail Alexandra's plan to global domination. If she really wants to challenge herself, she can just take 78 extracurriculars or something.

  19. and this too  

    I would also like to point out that attitudes like Alexandra's ( sorry i'm picking on you here) are what are tearing apart Columbia. We all fail at some point in our lives, even if we've worked hard. And what i see killing my fellow students is not just the pain of failure but never feeling like they can articulate and talk about their pain to others, they can't say I'm failing a class, I need help, because there's a climate at Columbia that everyone need to be perfect, overstudy, overstress, take 7 classes every semester, because no one wants to be told, " you can't handle it, go home". But college isn't an extreme version of survivor's island. We need to create a climate where Columbians can work together, support each other instead of this superficial focus on "winning" which permeates our campus. I will be working in everything i do, studying with others, supporting everyone, and so on, to counteract this culture. Join me if you wish.

  20. Anonymous  

    I want to fuck alexandra avvocato really, really badly.

  21. columbia  

    if we wanted p/d/f we would have all gone to brown and had orgies and smoked weed

  22. dirty mike

    alexandra the great is very smart. but really...legacy much? you were practically born to thrive in this environment. your opinion is not really relatable and your attitude alienates a lot of students that don't necessarily measure up to your gold standard of academics and extracurriculars because they all come from a variety of backgrounds (your words). spit out the silver spoon and get off your high horse. weed is becoming too expensive to be wasting on horses. kneel before alexandra the great!!1

  23. Anonymous

    Alright, I'm gonna say it, because nobody has done it yet: it's socialism.

  24. Anonymous  

    "Mandatory P/D/F would ineluctably weaken Columbia’s rigor (why push for the A when all you need is a C?), and would have affected my decision to come here. I didn’t come to an Ivy League institution, #4 in the nation, to not work hard and be remarkably challenged... If that's too much to handle, to paraphrase my high school advisors, maybe this isn't the place for you."

    Yikes. Not everyone fits in here as seamlessly as you did. Some people need time to adjust to the academic environment, which is where P/D/F helps.

    And maybe if simply learning isn't enough to motivate you, and you can't figure out how to work hard and or challenge yourself without grades on the line, then this really isn't the place for you.

  25. Anonymous

    Just make the policy optional and you please everyone.

  26. senior  

    so sick of the self-indulgent children here. in my experience at columbia ive met 2 types: those who easily do well in all their (many) classes and have a great time, and those pathetics who constantly bitch at their easy classes and brag about their stress. it seems like the pathetic minority has taken over the soapbox for the last year (the whole SWI bullshit), and honestly im sick of hearing them whine.
    School is not hard. Real life is. School is where we get to have fun before real life. if you think Columbia is stressful, then youre sure as shit gonna find any challenging job much more stressful, where you can no longer wake up at 10 every day, you cant study any fun thing you want, you cant get drunk and high with your friends half the week, youre not surrounded by other horny students in their physical prime, etc.
    and no, i didnt go to a fancy high school. in fact i was like one of 5 in my school to NOT go to a state school. ive just been taught that whining and excuses are not the way to meet a challenge.
    honestly, i think that columbia shoudl straight up kick out any student who doesnt get straight A's their first semester. maybe wed be free of these useless whiners.

    • Anonymous  

      "honestly, i think that columbia shoudl straight up kick out any student who doesnt get straight A's their first semester. maybe wed be free of these useless whiners."

      this is a perfect example of the kind of people who make columbia suck.

  27. Anonymous  

    Guys, as someone who did well my first semester, I really don't get why this is a big deal. I think it's a good policy and more fair than the current system while prioritizing the right form of adjustment. That's all.

  28. You

    are what makes this school such a fucking miserable place

  29. crazy

    why does svokos have her sat score on her linkedin. i think that speaks to the validity of her argument..

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