As last week’s changes to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Reopening Plan and the campus’s fall term plan reminded us, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. Conditions continue to change as infection rates vary and research into treatments and vaccines continues. To meet the uncertainties that will be faced in the next few months, the Faculty Senate Rules Committee, using its authority to act for the full Senate over the summer, agreed that the conditions warrant a partial expansion of the rules regarding undergraduate student choice of Pass-Fail grading during the Fall 2020 semester. As in Spring 2020, the policy gives students the ability to decide whether to opt for Pass-Fail grading; unlike Spring 2020 it limits the number of courses in which an undergraduate can choose Pass-Fail grading to three. The selection of three as the outer limit came after lengthy discussion of a full range of possibilities. It is based on a conclusion that while conditions are not as dire as they were with the sudden shutdown of campus in the spring, they are not yet back to the normal of most students living on or near campus and courses being taught face-to-face.
This policy modification is not a comment on past teaching or current efforts to develop more effective instruction using the various instructional technologies available. It is a response to concerns among multiple constituencies that some students may find that they need to use a Pass-Fail option in more circumstances than normally allowed to keep on track amidst COVID-19 related challenges in their particular situations. As in Spring 2020, students will have extra time to consider their options and will be encouraged to seek advice about the potential implications of their choice for their future studies or other endeavors before opting for Pass-Fail grading in any particular course.
As indicated, this policy is valid for the Fall 2020 semester only. The question of what Pass-Fail policy to use during the Spring 2021 semester will be addressed in the late fall in light of whatever further evolution of the pandemic situation has occurred by then.
Best regards to all and best wishes for a successful Fall Semester.
MJ Peterson, Secretary of the Faculty Senate
Pass-Fail Grading Policy for the Fall 2020 Semester
approved unanimously by the Faculty Senate Rules Committee 10 August 2020
Continuation of the public health emergency created by the Covid-19 pandemic means that the campus will not be returning to normal operations in the Fall 2020 term. Almost all instruction will continue to be remote; most students will continue to work on their courses from home. Though faculty and returning students have had time to adjust to remote instruction, the economic and other stresses of the pandemic have not disappeared. To alleviate some of the stress students may experience, the university will operate under a partial alteration of undergraduate grading mechanisms.
Modified Grading for Undergraduate Students and Undergraduate Courses for Fall 2020
(includes UG students in 500 level courses):
- All Letter Grading only courses will be changed to Letter Grading with Pass/Fail option.
- Students will be allowed to select Pass/Fail grading for up to three courses
- The deadline to declare Pass/Fail will be extended to Friday, November 20th.
- The current University policies restricting the number of Pass/Fail courses a student can take in a given semester and restricted usage of Pass/Fail courses for satisfaction of major, School/College, and University requirements including the General Education and Writing curriculum will be suspended for the Fall 2020 term.
- Undergraduates enrolled in graduate-level courses (600 or above) follow the graduate grading rules in which, for most courses, a SAT (satisfactory) grade is available instead of the elective Pass/Fail option available at the undergraduate level. Undergraduates enrolled in graduate-level courses must make arrangements with the instructor prior to the end of the semester to receive a SAT instead of a letter grade.
- Actual course grades may be needed by the student for application to graduate school, medical school, professional programs, other post-baccalaureate purposes, and to meet scholarship eligibility requirements. Students have up to six months after graduation to select a letter or pass grade before their University record/transcript is “frozen” and no further changes are allowed. After this period, if a student has a course in which a pass grade was received but requires a letter grade (see potential reasons above), the student may request an official letter from the Registrar’s Office indicating the letter grade that was submitted by the faculty member.