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To: Wellesley College Students
From: Andy Shennan, Provost and Lia Gelin Poorvu ’56 Dean of the College; Ann Velenchik, Dean of Academic Affairs; Megan Núñez, Dean of Faculty Affairs
Re: Academic Policies and Calendar for the Rest of the Semester
Date: March 18, 2020

We are writing with important information about grading policies and the calendar for this semester. Over the past few days, we have heard from many of you and from many of your professors. We have consulted with the chairs of academic departments, with the members of the Committee on Curriculum and Academic Policy (CCAP), and with President Johnson. Our decision-making has been informed by a single, overriding priority: to give all of you the fullest opportunity to complete this semester’s academic work and make progress toward your degrees. To that end, we have made the following decisions, which are explained in detail below.

  1. All courses this semester, including independent studies and senior theses, will be converted to mandatory credit/non grading status.
  2. For this semester only, faculty members will be expected to submit midterm grades for all courses and these grades will be recorded.
  3. We are restoring the schedule for the week in which the Ruhlman Conference would have taken place to a regular weekday schedule and adding some days in which courses might be taught.

Mandatory Credit/Non Grading Status
This is a time of enormous uncertainty, not only about the transition to remote instruction and assessment, but obviously also about the pandemic itself. It is likely that some of us, faculty and students alike, will become ill or have family members who are ill and will therefore not be able to do our best work for all that remains of the semester. Many of us may find remote instruction challenging because of our teaching and learning styles or for individual personal, technological, or financial reasons. We know that all of us will do the best that we can, but in a situation in which none of us knows what that will be, removing the pressure of grades is the best way to support all students and faculty in their efforts to finish their courses successfully. A uniform campus-wide policy treats everyone the same and takes the burden of decision-making off the shoulders of faculty and students in what is already an intensely stressful time.

We know that some of you would prefer to have the option to decide for yourselves what grading system to have for each course. During a normal semester, we would agree wholeheartedly that individual student autonomy and agency are an essential part of the college experience. However, this is not a normal semester. We are all affected by the disruptions that have already occurred and we know that the impact of the pandemic will evolve, for each of us, over the next six weeks. The entire faculty and staff of the College are completely committed to your education, but we also will all be working in the midst of an unparalleled situation. As we are suspending letter grades for students, we are also suspending course evaluations for faculty. We anticipate that your professors will continue to give you substantive feedback on your work, and we expect they will also solicit your feedback on their courses. Let’s try to do our work and support one another without being required to make judgments.

We are asking each faculty member to make a new syllabus for each course in which they will set out the requirements for receiving credit in the course. Although our usual standard for credit in a course offered mandatory credit/non is that students have a grade of C (and not C- or D), we have told faculty that they should give credit to students who have satisfied the demands of the course without requiring them to link that determination to a letter grade. We have reminded faculty that our mandatory credit/non system allows for the granting of credit with distinction and asked them to use that when appropriate, so that the grades you will receive will be MCRD, MCR and MNCR. We are also asking faculty to give incomplete grades only in situations when students have not been able to meet the minimum requirements for course credit. All of us will be well served if this semester’s course work is completed by semester’s end.

Some students have raised concerns that the move to mandatory credit/non will make them ineligible for Latin Honors because they will no longer meet the requirement of having 12 graded units or having elected no more than 25 percent of their courses credit/non. Please be assured that we will be reviewing student records and will not prevent a student who would otherwise have been eligible for honors from receiving honors solely because we have changed the number of graded units in her record.

Midterm Grades
We know that you have been working hard so far this semester, and we have heard from many of you that it is important to you that your performance so far this term be acknowledged. For this semester only, we will be collecting midterm grades from your professors. These grades will reflect their assessment of the work you have submitted so far. Faculty will be able to assign the full range of letter grades. Some courses have had little graded work or are structured in such a way that a midterm assessment is impossible. In those cases, faculty will alternatively be able to choose a grade of “S” (for satisfactory progress) or “U” (for unsatisfactory progress). At the end of the semester, those midterm grades will be compiled into a “Spring 2020 midterm grade report” that will be stored in your individual academic record. After May 11, you will be able to view your midterm grades in Workday. You will then be able to choose whether to include those grades when the College sends out an official transcript. The midterm grades will appear in a special box on your transcript but will not be included in GPA calculations.

Adjustments to the Course Calendar
The extra week of spring break has shortened teaching times for all courses. While we do not expect faculty to make up that time, we want to make space in the schedule for them to do so, or to use the extra time to allow for flexibility in how they implement remote instruction. However, we have asked that faculty do so in conformity with the weekday class schedule, as follows, and to make their plans clear in their revised syllabus:

  • Because the Ruhlman Conference is cancelled, we will revert to a normal week that includes all five class days rather than skipping Wednesday:
    • Tuesday, April 28 will follow a Tuesday schedule
    • Wednesday, April 29 will follow a Wednesday schedule
  • Faculty may choose to hold classes on Patriots’ Day (Monday, April 20)
  • Faculty may choose to hold classes on Thursday, May 7 and Friday, May 8

We have already informed faculty that we will postpone the deadline for submission of honors theses to May 6. We still plan to schedule honors oral exams, via Zoom, and to give students the opportunity to share their thesis work. That process is a highlight of the academic year for faculty and students alike. We have asked faculty who submitted a grade of “TBG” for the fall semester of your thesis work to submit a letter grade for that 355 or 360 course.

These are unnerving times, and we are all being challenged to accept a significant loss of control over our own lives. We are being asked to put our individual needs behind a concern for the greater good and to make sacrifices so that we can slow the spread of this pandemic. We think we can do that while also allowing all of you the opportunity to finish your courses and continue to make progress toward your degrees.

Please know that we, President Johnson, and the entire Wellesley College faculty and staff, remain committed to your success and supportive of each of you as you work to achieve your goals. We look forward to the moment when we can all be back together on our beautiful campus.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to write to us directly.