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A Final Note on Swarthmore’s Spring 2020 Grading Policy

Dear Swarthmore Students,

I am writing to inform you that, after extensive reflection and discussion, the faculty voted to move to a mandatory Credit/No Credit grading policy for the spring 2020 semester; there will be no opportunity to uncover individual grades.

As you know, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, we had previously adopted a grading policy of Credit/No Credit with the ability for students to uncover grades. That decision was based on the work of two faculty-led committees: the Curriculum Committee brought forth a recommendation to the Council on Educational Policy (CEP). 

Since then, as we continued the transition to remote learning, faculty members have engaged their students on Zoom calls, phone calls, and over email — in virtual classrooms and office hours, and in one-on-one conversations. We’ve learned that the situation has been inconvenient and uncomfortable for some and extraordinarily difficult for others.  

As your deans, professors, coaches, laboratory and language instructors, and advisors, we want each of you to know that we see and hear the dedication and steadfastness of some of you to engage with faculty and fellow students, even amid the uncertainty and disruption of this global pandemic.

We know that many of you are suffering financial distress because family members have lost jobs; you are joining classes from time zones across the globe; and some of you are studying in family homes that have imposed a strange and uncomfortable duality to the identities you were able to express on campus.  

We have taken all of these things into consideration as we have wrestled with how both to do right by you while acknowledging our own challenges in this moment.  

Thoughtful viewpoints on our grading policy were voiced throughout nearly two hours of discussion at two separate faculty meetings which saw more than 190 attendees each, a faculty survey which collected impressions from more than 220 faculty and instructional staff members, and a faculty vote in which 203 faculty participated.

Although the conversations highlighted clear and, at times, sharp differences between faculty members, what came through at every point along the way was each faculty member’s passion for supporting you, our students, to the best of their ability.

During this pandemic, every member of society is faced with seemingly impossible challenges every day. Coming up with a uniform and fair grading policy acceptable to all students and faculty members is but one more item on that list. We know that some of you will be pleased with the decision and others of you disappointed with it, but please understand that it has not been reached lightly or without deep concern for all of you and for your education. Professor Grace Ledbetter, Director of the Honors Program will be directly in touch with Honors students to outline what this means for them. 

Your patience and your perseverance are inspiring. We wish you and your families all good health, good luck, and a good end to the semester.

Sarah Willie-LeBreton
Provost and Dean of the Faculty