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For Faculty: Temporary Undergraduate Grading Option

Dear Faculty Members,

We, like you, have heard from many students about how they and their families are struggling. The pandemic and deep social injustices are affecting many on a daily basis. A number of students petitioned Northwestern to expand Pass/No Pass (P/NP) grading this fall as a result of these challenges, requesting that such grades be allowed to fulfill more requirements. 

In response, we have been working on a solution that would provide students flexibility in their coursework this year, enable each to make sound choices for their own current situation and future plans, and still ensure the integrity of our academic programs.

In consultation with the deans and other undergraduate school leaders, and the Faculty Senate Leadership, later today I will announce an alternative grading option to students that does provide flexibility in meeting requirements while ensuring that the majority of students’ coursework is still graded this year. 

For this academic year (Fall 2020, Winter 2021, and Spring 2021), we will employ a temporary grading option, Credit/No Credit, which will fulfill any academic requirement. Similar to P/NP, these grades will bear no impact on the GPA, but will simply denote whether someone has completed a course and earned credit (CR) or whether they have not (NC). 

However, rather than selecting this grading option during the quarter in which the student takes a class, they will have the opportunity in early summer 2021 to change up to one-third of the classes they completed this academic year to CR or NC grades. They will make this choice once at the end of the academic year, in consultation with an adviser, understanding the full impact of this unusual year on their academic performance, and bearing in mind their future plans and how these grades may play a role. 

Because the grades will be changed in the summer, we will have the benefit of quality (letter) grades within the year to determine eligibility for continued enrollment in course sequences and proficiency in pre-requisites. Grades in courses in which students have been found responsible or are under investigation for academic integrity violations will not be eligible to be changed.

Our goal is to provide students with relief and optionality, considering the uncertainty of the coming months. Making a choice after Spring Quarter gives students flexibility during an uncertain time and the perspective to employ this option strategically. 

Traditional P/NP grading continues to be available as usual this year as well.

Students who graduate in Fall or Winter quarters will have two weeks after their graduation term ends to make their CR/NC grade elections. Seniors registered full time in Fall Quarter who are applying for post-graduation opportunities may choose to elect Credit/No Credit for one fall class at the end of that term. 

More detail about this temporary grading option, including the maximum number of courses that can be taken for CR/NC, whether and how seniors may make an early election, and other important information, will be posted to the Office of the Registrar webpage early next week.

We thank you for your continued partnership as we work to support our community during this challenging time.


Kathleen Hagerty
Provost and Professor