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Updated Pass/Fail Grading Policy for Majors

for BIOL, BIOC, BIOE, and BINF majors/minors

April 17, 2020 5:01 PM
To students enrolled in BIOL, BIOC, BIOE or BINF major or minor programs:

I am writing as Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences, and in consultation with the Undergraduate Program Directors of these programs and with other CNMS Chairs (Chemistry & Biochemistry, Mathematics & Statistics, and Physics) to announce changes to grading policies for the Spring 2020 semester. 

The CNMS departments have considered whether major or minor courses could be taken using P/F grading and whether a grade of P would allow the course to be used to satisfy prerequisites for further courses. There are arguments on both sides of this question but the four departments recognize that in the current situation students may find that they cannot achieve their normal level of mastery of course curricula and might therefore see their grades slip. Since this results in part from our inability to provide the same level of training while adapting to online instruction, we feel that we must provide special consideration in grading this semester.

The four departments join in agreeing that P/F grading in all BIOL, CHEM, MATH, STAT and PHYS courses required for BIOL, BIOC, BIOE and BINF can be taken P/F during the Spring 2020 semester and that a P grade will meet the prerequisites for any further courses in these majors.

According to Spring 2020 policies, you will be allowed to change a passing letter grade to P after your letter grades are made available at the end of the semester. There is no need to change your grading to P/F at this point.

Please recognize that it is possible that you may find that P grades will not be acceptable for whatever post-graduate training program you might want to apply for in the future. We have inquired of some professional programs, for example, and have found a variety of responses. If you receive a letter grade normally deemed appropriate for these programs it may be in your interest not to change it to P.

We do not have information about courses in other departments that might be taken for credit toward our degrees. Please check with instructors or representatives of other programs before making the decision to take their courses P/F. Also, the Physics Department has not agreed to accept P grades for courses beyond the four normally taken in our majors (PHYS 111/112 and 121/122).

All CNMS departments recognized that it was in the interest of all students to be given this option during these trying times. This system is only in operation for this semester, and should revert to the normal process for subsequent semesters and summer sessions.

If you have any questions about this policy, please contact your academic advisor.

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Philip Farabaugh
Professor & Chair
Department of Biological Sciences
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