SGO Discusses Credit/No Credit, Next Steps for Divestment Referendum

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

On February 26th, the Student Government Organization (SGO) convened for a general meeting in Science Center 104.

Committee chairs gave updates on their committees’ progress, and Co-Presidents Mosea Esaias ‘17 and Ben Roebuck ‘17 shared information from a recent Board of Managers meeting.

SGO members then yielded the floor to Provost Thomas Stephenson. Stephenson fielded questions about proposed changes to the credit/no credit policy and relayed the results from a survey issued to the student body last week regarding these proposals.

Of the 372 students surveyed, 63% were in favor of a proposal to standardize the grade threshold needed to receive credit. Currently, first-years and sophomores can receive credit for a D or higher, whereas upperclassmen must earn a C or higher. The proposal would make the threshold a C- for all class years. Stephenson said that the faculty has been “generally quite supportive” of this proposal.

A proposal to change the deadline to declare a credit/no credit election from the ninth week of the semester to two weeks after the end of the semester proved more contentious.

Though 89% of students surveyed were in favor of this proposal, Stephenson reported that some faculty members have expressed concern that the policy would be “inevitably grade inflationary” since it would allow students to alter their transcripts after final grades are issued. Senator Gilbert Orbea ‘19 countered that the policy might be inflationary in a positive way, since students “might actually want to try” to see if they can receive a solid final grade before declaring an election.

A proposal to change the number of credit/no credit elections from four to three was also poorly received by students, with 51% opposed.

Chair of Student Organization Cole Graham ‘17 and Meiri Anto ‘17 argued that, if passed, the policies should go into effect next semester for all classes, instead of for just the Class of 2021. “Students have unilaterally said that the new policy would reduce stress,” said Anto. Stephenson responded that implementing the policies for current class would be a “huge mess” since some students have already used their elections.

After giving a hearty thanks to Stephenson, Senator Ari Coopersmith ‘17 guided SGO into a discussion about last week’s Mountain Justice-backed divestment referendum. Although the referendum passed with 80.5% approval, President Valerie Smith sent out an email reaffirming the Board’s Sustainability and Investment Policy, which states that the Board will “not … divest from fossil fuels, either on a full or partial basis.” Coopersmith emphasized that the current situation has “no precedent” since prior referenda have not involved the Board. He proceeded to open up the floor to discussion about SGO’s position in regards to the referendum.

Esaias argued that SGO ought to communicate the overwhelming opinion of the student body to the administration, but ought not to express moral support for divestment. “We should move the conversation from one about divestment to one about democracy on college campuses,” he said.

Graham agreed with Esaias, suggesting that SGO serve as a “mediator” between Mountain Justice and the administration.

Senator Roman Shemakov ‘20 recommended that SGO draft a letter to the greater Swarthmore community, including alumni, that would communicate SGO’s support for the referendum results. This proposal was well-received by both the SGO and Mountain Justice members present at the meeting. Chair of Academic Affairs Corinne Candilis ‘17 proposed that an ad hoc committee draft this letter.

Though Orbea had introduced a constitutional amendment on referenda, Roebuck postponed discussion until the next meeting. After agreeing to sustain contact with Mountain Justice about the referendum, Roebuck concluded the meeting.


Minutes of Sunday’s SGO meeting can be found here.


Correction 3/1/2017 12:45 p.m: The article originally incorrectly stated that the Board of Managers “ultimately voted against partial divestment.” 

Katie Pruitt

Katie '20 is from McLean, VA, majoring in economics and minoring in political science. In the little time she isn’t studying, going to class, or working on The Phoenix, you can find her listening to podcasts or rereading the same ten or so books for the millionth, billionth time. She doesn’t know what she wants to do after college and she wishes that people would stop asking her about it.

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