Changes to Grading Policy for Spring 2020

March 31, 2020

Dear Students:

I write to share the results of today's faculty meeting regarding how to approach grading—and all the issues that follow from grading—this semester. 

As you know, we are navigating challenging and uncertain circumstances as a result of the global pandemic.  The choices on how to proceed are difficult ones, presenting challenges in terms of the widely altered circumstances all of you are facing—as well as in terms of the particular impact of the current situation on some among our community.  The fast-changing nature of the moment also presents difficulties, in terms of securing the best interests of each of you both in the current moment and over time.  Finally, the impact on all of you, the distinct impacts on some of you, and the potential tensions between what is best for you now versus later must be evaluated in the face of significant uncertainty.

The fact is, there is no perfect solution when it comes to grades under these unprecedented circumstances.  The faculty recognized this as it debated the pros and cons and unknowns of the path forward.  Ultimately, the faculty made its decisions having considered your concerns—expressed in emails, in meetings, in private conversations, in surveys, and in petitions.  It reviewed the policies and rationales put forth by other schools, and deliberated at length.  I am proud to tell you that even through heated debate, every member of the faculty was determined to support you in every conceivable way, causing as little harm as the unwanted disruption will allow.

In its best effort to navigate those challenges, the faculty has adopted substantial changes to the grading policy for the remainder of this semester.  The unique feature of the plan is that it decouples GPA and class rank.  While students will get the benefit of improving their individual GPA by electing certain letter grades, no student will be disadvantaged by a negative change in class rank.  Spring 2020 grades will be used for GPA, but will not be used for purposes of class rank. Class rank will remain the same as at the end of Fall 2019. 

Under the policy:

  • Faculty will calculate and submit letter grades in all classes. 
  • Students will be awarded a grade of pass or "no credit," but will be given the chance to publish their earned letter grade on their transcript on a course-by-course basis, after seeing their unpublished but calculated grades.
  • Course grades that pre-date the shutdown won't fall under the policy.
  • "Pass" means D- or better.
  • Instead of "fail," transcripts will say "no credit" ("NC"). 
  • For Spring 2020, a student's term GPA and cumulative GPA will include all published grades. If a student elects all pass/no credit grading, they will have no term GPA and their cumulative GPA will be the same as it was at the end of Fall 2019.
  • Class rankings will not include Spring 2020 grades. 
  • No student will be academically dismissed at the end of Spring 2020.
  • No students will lose scholarships in Spring 2020.  Determinations about scholarship retention will take place in Spring 2021.
  • Students will have to retake required classes if they score below a "C-."
  • The 1L curve will now have a mandatory "B" median.
  • Latin Honors, the Dean's List, and eligibility for Moot Court, Semester in Practice, Semester Abroad, and Journal write-on competitions will be calculated based upon cumulative GPA at the end of Spring 2020.
  • For further detail, .

Reflecting on the faculty's deliberations, I can confidently say that the faculty did everything in its power to be guided by an abiding concern for you, as students facing unimaginable challenges in a semester turned upside down more than halfway through. 

I am sure you will have many questions about the rationale for and the implementation of the faculty's decision.  Members of our faculty and our deans will be available to discuss the policy in detail at tomorrow's town hall at 4:30. 

I look forward to seeing you then.

a drawing of a person

Alicia Ouellette
President and Dean