We have yet to have a thorough discussion of the College’s new “Gaudino Option.” The Record reports:

Born of concern that students were reluctant to take courses they weren’t comfortable with due to fear of receiving a bad grade, the Gaudino option was crafted to allow students to designate up to two “uncomfortable” courses over the course of their college careers and opt to remove the final grade for those courses if they achieved a certain “floor” grade in the class.

Despite being a big fan of Professor Ed Burger, I am extremely skeptical of this whole exercise. Williams has real problems with its academics that we ought to fix first: grade inflation, gut classes and student expectations. Once we did, much of the argument for a Gaudino option would go away. (And these things are easy to fix!)

For background, here are supporting documents kindly provided by Professor Burger: Gaudino Option Initiative, Gaudino Student Information and Gaudino Faculty Information.

The Course Catalog (pdf) provides details:

The Gaudino Option
♦ This initiative attempts to encourage students to engage in courses of interest beyond their area of focus or “expertise”–dare yourself to enroll in challenging but intriguing courses that you would otherwise not take!
♦ You can declare a G–option at the beginning of the semester for courses taken at Williams, starting as early as the spring semester of your first year and as late as the fall semester of your senior year. You can sign up for at most one G–option course per semester, and at most two in your undergraduate career.
♦ You cannot invoke the G–option on a course used to satisfy divisional or other college requirements (EDI, Q, W).
♦ You cannot invoke the G–option for any course that fulfills major or concentration requirements unless it is the very first course you take in that major or concentration.
♦ You will have up to 30 days after grades are posted to elect to invoke the G–option for a course from the previous semester. If your course grade is above a certain floor and the instructor of the course approves, then the course grade will be changed to G on your transcript and the GPA will not be affected by the original grade. The course will count toward graduation, but the transcript will reflect that you declared the course to be an intellectual stretch.
♦ Any course can be taken with the G–option unless the course description in the College Bulletin explicitly states otherwise.

Declaring the G–option
♦ You can declare a regular course at Williams as one of your two G–options any time during the drop/add period of any semester for which you are eligible to declare one. You cannot un–declare the G–option after the end of drop/add!

Invoking the G–option
♦ You may ask the Registrar’s Office to invoke your option for a G–option course within 30 days after grades are posted. After 30 days you will keep the
grade you earned in that class if you don’t notify the Registrar that you wish to invoke the G–option. To apply the option, your course grade has to be no
lower than the lesser of: (a) your current GPA minus 0.67; or (b) the grade of B–. In addition, the registrar will ask the instructor of the course to assert that you were “intellectually present.” If either of these conditions is not met, then the grade you earned cannot be removed. “Intellectual presence” implies that you have attended and participated in all the class meetings and that you have done all the required work. Some instructors might have other requirements. You should feel free to meet with and interact with your instructor to get the most out of the experience.

This is a 5–year experiment that the faculty is offering to all Williams students. Use it or not as you wish; however, don’t abuse this invitation from the faculty to explore uncomfortable worlds that interest you. If this option is abused, then this initiative will go away.

More info here.

Before I launch into my screed, what do our readers think of this idea? Do any current students expect to use the Gaudino option for one of their fall classes? Which one and why?

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