Whither the "G-option"

I loved the story about the “G-option” in the September 2010 issue. I entered Williams in ’62 having been in three high schools in four years. I never took a course in biology. I wanted to fill that gap, but Bio 101 was for the guys going on to be doctors (not me) and was considered very tough in order to persuade those who took the class to consider other options. I wish the G-option had been available then; I would have loved to “play” in that realm for sure. —Peter Hoyt ’66, Cincinnati, Ohio

Adoption of a pass/fail option is long overdue, but I question whether it will sufficiently promote academic risk-taking. Will the history major with a B-plus GPA risk a C in chemistry, since the pass option is revoked if the grade is not a B-minus or higher or is more than two-thirds of a grade below his or her GPA (even if the student is deemed “intellectually present”)? Perhaps not. —Kevin Caton ’88, Pittsford, N.Y

I t’s hard to conjure the person-hours, the diverse assemblages of IQ points, the meetings to discuss the agenda for the meetings, the hair splitting and the dancing pinhead angels it took to achieve this “G-option.” But the result looks transformational, even alchemical. Given .67 of this and B-minus of that and once only maybe but not in area of concentration per semester after grades but only if intellectually present— what could be clearer? And the result? Uncomfortable learning without the discomfort! This makes President Sawyer’s advice to freshmen in ’68 obsolete: “Take a course you think you might fail.” I took his advice, met Professor Park and learned more about my capabilities than I did about physics. So press on. Ease the heat on the crucible. No one will notice a change in the metal. —David Westbrook ’72, Cambridge, Mass.