University Expands Pass/Fail Grading for Spring Quarter Classes

The new policy allows undergraduates to petition the College to take Core requirements pass/fail and encourages departments and programs to allow pass/fail grading for major and minor requirements.


By Justin Smith, News Editor

The College is expanding its pass/fail grading policies spring quarter in response to students’ varied distance learning situations as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, according to an email sent today to students by Dean John Boyer and Dean Jay Ellison. As in other quarters, undergraduates are allowed to take elective classes for pass/fail grades. The College is now allowing pass/fail grading for Core requirements and has asked departments and programs to implement pass/fail policies for major and minor requirements as well.

Students will have the option to apply to take Core courses pass/fail in spring quarter, according to the email. “While the College will maintain its traditional policy requiring that general-education Core courses be taken for a quality grade, students may apply to take Core courses with a pass / fail option.”

The College has requested, but not mandated, that each department, school, and program implement a pass/fail option for major and minor requirements.

Some parts of the University have already announced adjusted grading policies for spring quarter.

In an email to faculty, the Division of the Humanities said that “for courses taken in fulfillment of requirements of a Major or Minor, departments and programs will implement a P/F option of spring quarter and will inform majors and minors in their units.” The Division of the Humanities will continue to assign quality grades for M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. students; however, prior pass/fail grading policies will remain in place.

In an email to students, Milvia Rodriguez, Program Administrator for Public Policy Studies said that “public policy majors will have the option to take one of their classes that they plan to count toward their major requirements pass/fail this spring quarter.”

According to an update on the physical sciences department’s COVID-19 webpage, "For courses taken to fulfill the requirements of a Major or Minor in the Physical Sciences Division, students in the College may request to take up to two courses pass/fail with the consent of their instructors."

In an email, the Environmental and Urban Studies department informed students they may count up to two pass/fail courses toward major requirements, and up to one pass/fail course toward minor requirements.

The history department will allow up to two courses to be taken pass/fail for the major and minor, with the exception of the B.A. Seminar.

This policy follows the lead of multiple other universities who have implemented optional pass/fail and blanket pass/fail policies to replace normal quality grading systems in light of the current pandemic.

Previously, students could opt to take courses pass/fail at the discretion of their instructor. Students were not able to count a pass/fail course toward core requirements, and could not count the course toward major requirements for the majority of majors in the College. As in other quarters, pass/fail courses in which a student earns a passing grade will not be factored into the student’s GPA, while pass/fail courses in which a student earns a failing grade will be factored as a 0 into the student’s GPA.

Students are divided over the adjustments to the College’s grading policies.

According to Sandro Sharashenidze, a second-year in the College considering attending graduate school, “Employers and grad schools will still know that you had the option of showing a grade on your transcript but chose otherwise. Anybody who chooses to pass/fail will be at a serious disadvantage.”

Others praised the University for allowing pass/fail courses to count toward major requirements. “I think optional pass/fail would allow students negatively impacted by Coronavirus to still succeed in school this spring quarter. As long as pass/fail major classes are counted toward our majors, this would be quite beneficial,” second-year Anushka Shivaram said.

All students who would like to take a class pass/fail must confirm all requests by ninth week, the week directly preceding finals week due to spring quarter's shortened academic schedule.