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.


FAQ: Pass/Fail

How can I select the pass/fail grade option?

The online form can be used through the May 1 deadline. If no action is taken to request that a course be considered pass/fail, normal letter grading will remain in effect.

Will I be able to take a class counting towards my major or minor pass/fail?

Yes, for spring 2020 semester only, a P can be counted in the major.

Will I be able to take a class counting towards the Common Course of Study requirements pass/fail?

Yes, for spring 2020 semester only, a P can count for a Common Course of Study requirement.

What is considered a passing grade/failing grade?

Any non-failing grade will be recorded as a P; a failing grade will be recorded as an F.

How will an F factor into my GPA?

An F will be calculated into the term and cumulative GPA calculations, as outlined in the catalog.

How will having one or two classes pass/fail factor into consideration for the Dean's List this semester?

Dean’s List for spring 2020 will be determined based on a minimum of three graded courses and term GPA of 3.6 or higher.

Will I still be eligible for Latin honors at graduation if I choose pass/fail classes?

Graduation Latin honors are determined based on the cumulative GPA.  Those who graduate with high cumulative averages based upon four years’ work are awarded their degrees summa cum laude (a cumulative average of 3.85 or higher), magna cum laude (3.75), or cum laude (3.65). Taking a class pass/fail will not affect your GPA unless the grade is recorded as an F.

Will faculty know that I chose pass/fail grading for their course?

Prior to submitting grades for their course a faculty member would not know who in their course has elected the pass/fail grade option. Faculty become aware of the pass/fail grade request at the time they have access to final grade entry in Banner.

I am completing an honors thesis. Can I select the pass/fail grade option?

Not for the thesis course. In order to be awarded departmental honors for completion of a thesis, a grade of A is required in the Thesis course. You can still elect other courses to be Pass/Fail.

If I have already requested that a class be pass/fail with a minimum grade, will I still be able to retain the minimum grade option?

No. The modification of the policy for the spring semester does not allow for a letter grade to be specified in lieu of the P. All courses retain normal letter grading unless and until a request for pass/fail is submitted. If you would like to retain the letter grade option, no action is necessary. If you prefer to have the class be evaluated pass/fail, you must submit that request.

Can I still withdraw from a course?

Yes. The withdrawal deadline has been extended to May 1, the same date by which pass/fail grading has to be elected. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with their adviser(s) before deciding to opt for a pass/fail grade or withdrawing from a course so that they can make a well-informed decision.

If I select pass/fail for a course, will I be able to change back to letter grading later?

No. Once a student has opted for a P/F grade, this decision is final. Therefore, students should take their time and make a well-informed decision in consultation with their adviser.

Can students request to change from letter grades to pass/fail after the May 1 deadline?

No. May 1 at noon is a firm deadline.

Will courses taken on a pass/fail basis this semester be included in the policy that limits students to taking a maximum of four courses pass/fail during their academic career?

No. Courses taken pass/fail this semester are not included in the overall count. 

Can I request pass/fail for an LVAIC cross-registered course?

Many LAVIC schools are offering a pass/pail (or similar) option. Check with the host school about its policy and process.

I am studying abroad this semester. Can I request pass/fail grading?

If your host institution is offering a pass/fail option, you should follow its guidance for selecting that alternate grade scale. If it is not, then you may make that request to Lafayette. You will receive communication from the Office of International and Off-Campus Education with details.