Spring Term 2020 Guidelines Regarding Pass/Fail and SAT/UNSAT Options

Approved by Faculty Senate Rules Committee acting on behalf of the Faculty Senate:

March 20, 2020

With the shift to remote delivery of instruction occurring at higher education institutions across the country, many institutions are moving to Pass/Fail or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory grading mechanisms.  As the University of Massachusetts Amherst transitions to remote learning, faculty and students alike will be experiencing a new mode of instructional delivery.  Faculty members will be transitioning delivery of content through a remote environment, will be communicating with students via remote tools, and will be making accommodations in their assessment methods of student learning.  Students will also be experiencing a transition to remote learning.  To help alleviate some of the stresses caused by measures taken to move instruction to remote learning the University will be altering its grading mechanism.

Under the current process, when courses are submitted to the Registrar’s Office to be offered the next semester the grading criteria for the course is selected (e.g., Mandatory P/F, Letter Grade only, or Letter Grade w/option for Pass/Fail).  For courses with a grading scheme of Letter Grade w/option for Pass/Fail the instructor will submit a letter grade earned for every student. If the letter grade is F, it is factored into the GPA. If the student receives a passing letter grade, an initial computation of the cumulative average will be made. This average will include all graded courses from prior semesters as well as graded courses from the current semester. If the course elected Pass/Fail during the current semester carries a grade higher than the initially computed cumulative average, the reported letter grade will be recorded and the cumulative average recomputed; otherwise the P or F will be recorded.  This ensures that there will be letter grading (A through D) for students whose GPA will be helped by receiving the actual letter grade they earned in the course. 

These Guidelines are a response to the extraordinary situation created by Federal and State mandated measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Undergraduate Students and Undergraduate Courses
(includes UG students in 500 level courses)

  1. All Letter Grading only courses will be changed to Letter Grading with Pass/Fail option.
  2. Students will be allowed to select Pass/Fail grading for any course through Wednesday, April 29th.
  3. 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 Spring 2020 term.  The Commonwealth Honors College requirement that only letter graded courses are used to count toward honors graduation will also be suspended for the Spring 2020 term.
  4. Undergraduates enrolled in graduate-level courses (600 or above) follow the graduate grading rules in which, for most courses, an SAT (satisfactory) grade is available instead of the elective pass/fail option available at the undergraduate level.  Undergraduates 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. 

Graduate Students and Graduate-level Courses

All graduate level-courses (500 or above) include the SAT (satisfactory) grade as an alternative to a letter grade.  The grade of ‘SAT’ is equivalent to ‘Passing for Graduate Credit’.  Students 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.