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Faculty Spring Quarter Grading and Policy Update


Since writing to you last Sunday, I, along with other senior leaders, have heard from members of the Northwestern community, students in particular, who have expressed difficulty concentrating on their academic work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent race-based injustices. I know many of you feel similarly and continue to make efforts inside and outside of the classroom to help ease the burden for our students and colleagues.

I realize that many of you quickly pivoted to address similar concerns at the end of Winter Quarter, and you have worked hard to ensure that Spring courses provide meaningful opportunities for students to engage in their academics remotely while fostering the rigor we expect at Northwestern.

As this quarter nears its close, I would like to increase support for our students without creating further disruption to what has already been a challenging term. Therefore, in consultation with the Deans, Faculty Senate representatives, the Associate Deans for Undergraduate and Graduate studies and others, I write to announce the following adjustments to our academic policies for Spring Quarter.

  • Withdrawal Policy for All Students: We are extending the deadline for course withdrawal for all students until the end of the quarter: Saturday, June 13. Among the available options, we chose withdrawal because it can be offered to all students equally.
  • Grading Options for Graduate Students: As you know, graduate students are assigned Pass/No Pass (P/N) grades unless they opted in to quality (letter) grades by May 29. We are now reopening the window for grading format changes with a new deadline of Monday, June 8. Graduate students may alter the grading option, either from letter grades to P/N or from P/N to letter grades, during this time period.

I hope these adjustments, as well as your consideration of the suggestions below, will provide students with the additional flexibility they need at this time.

Recommendations for Faculty

As you progress through this period of final assessments, consider these suggestions – many of which come directly from faculty, staff, and students across the University – that may provide greater support.

  • Provide each student in your class with their current grade(s). Undergraduates, who will earn either a “Pass” or “No Pass,” will especially benefit from knowing if they already have completed sufficient work to pass. Such clarity will help students make informed decisions as they consider the flexibility we are now offering through the policy adjustments announced today.
  • Remind students of the impact of a final assessment on their ability to pass, even if this information is available in your syllabus.
  • Consider adjusting the format, content, or length of an exam or final assessment, if appropriate.
  • Carefully evaluate student requests for an Incomplete grade in consultation with your school’s policy. If students have completed enough work to receive a grade of Pass, there is no need for an Incomplete. 

I thank you for your continued compassion and flexibility and remain tremendously appreciative of your efforts. Your ability to transition to remote instruction so quickly continues to inspire me, as does your ongoing dedication to our students’ learning and to the high-quality instruction that you have continued to provide.


Kathleen Hagerty
Interim Provost and Professor