To: The Lafayette Community
From: President Alison Byerly and Provost John Meier

The administration received “significant advice” this week from two faculty committees, the Academic Progress Committee and the Curriculum and Educational Policy Committee, proposing temporary changes to the College’s policies regarding pass/fail grading in response to the unanticipated shift to remote teaching and learning. The two committees recommend a flexible grading policy for the spring 2020 semester that allows students to choose a pass/fail grade in lieu of a traditional letter grade later in this semester than is the standing policy and for a wider range of courses. We have accepted their advice and write to advise students, faculty, and staff that this policy will be in effect for Spring 2020.

The policy is described in more detail in the significant advice from APC and CEP. Please note that “Students are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisors before deciding to opt for a Pass/Fail grade in one or more of their courses so that they can make a well-informed decision.” This is particularly important for students considering graduate or professional programs. It is also important that faculty members retain details about all students’ performance on assignments just as they normally would.

The abrupt shift to online instruction set in motion by COVID-19  has caused considerable disruption to colleges and universities, and our peer institutions have put into place a wide variety of adjustments to grading policies that are intended to reduce the stress these changes may cause for students. At Lafayette, Larry Malinconico (Chair of CEP), Charlie Nutaitis (Chair of APC), Markus Dubischar (Associate Dean of the Curriculum), and Kara Howe (Registrar) quickly formed a working group to look at the policies being adopted by other institutions and to consider what temporary policy might be the best for Lafayette. At the same time, many members of our community were advocating for the adoption of various proposals. It was clear that the community needed the College to respond quickly in the midst of this unprecedented situation.

The working group brought a proposal for a flexible grading policy to a combined meeting of APC and CEP, which considered the proposal as well as discussing alternative approaches. After this conversation among 18 members of the faculty, students, and administrators, the proposed changes were unanimously supported by the members of both committees, who chose to render significant advice to the administration.

We believe the temporary policy addresses appropriately the key challenges students face, represents a reasonable middle ground among the range of policies being considered or adopted across the country, and has been considered thoughtfully by an appropriate group of faculty and administrators.

We sincerely thank Professor Malinconico, Professor Nutaitis, Associate Dean Dubischar, and  Registrar Howe for their extraordinary efforts to bring forward this proposal in the midst of everything else they are doing at this busy time. We also thank the members of APC and CEP for their prompt review and thoughtful advice.

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