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Moving Forward with the Spring Semester


General Information

Modified Credit/No Credit Policy for Spring 2020 at Swarthmore College

On the recommendation of the Curriculum Committee and the Council on Educational Policy and with the approval of the President and the Provost, the College has moved to a Credit/No Credit (CR/NC) semester for all students, with the option of uncovering grades at the semester’s conclusion.

This is a modification of a current Swarthmore policy for Credit/No Credit work. Grades for all courses completed during the Spring 2020 semester will be recorded as CR/NC and will not count against the four credits students may optionally elect as CR/NC after the first semester of students’ first year. This includes all courses completed at other institutions and for other programs that were preapproved by the Office of Off-Campus Study.

In this model, based on our current policy for first-semester first-year students, faculty will award letter grades that will remain unseen on the transcript. As the grades come in, students (and faculty) will be able to see them, but they will be converted to CR or NC on the official transcript unless the student opts out of the CR/NC policy and wishes to have some or all of the grades uncovered.

The handling of D grades and NC grades: After the first semester of the first year, a student who chooses to take a course CR/NC yet earns any version of a grade of D (D+, D, or D-) will earn degree credit but forfeit the ability to have the grade covered. For this Spring 2020 semester, however, all grades of D- and above will remain covered unless a student chooses to uncover them. A course earning NC (No Credit) will receive NC on the transcript and not receive degree credit.

Uncovering the CR/NC: Faculty will still award grades, but the default grades for students will be to receive either CR or NC. Once grades are turned in, students will have the opportunity to uncover any of their courses’ grades from this semester for their official transcript. Students (except spring semester graduating seniors) will have until the end of the second week of the following semester to uncover their grades; for spring semester graduating seniors, the deadline to uncover the underlying shadow letter grade is the Tuesday prior to commencement.

Finally, a note will be placed on the transcripts of all Swarthmore students currently matriculated that explains the College’s policy for this semester.

Guidance: We strongly advise students to consult with their advisers before deciding to uncover some grades but not others.

Rationale: We hope that faculty and students together, doing something quite different and distinct for the first time, will experience some relief of pressure as the semester finishes. It is our broader hope that we all focus less on course grades this semester and more on our collective work together, coming together with gratitude for one another and the very endeavor of learning. We all need distractions of the healthiest kind in such a strange moment where we are physically and geographically separated, and our mission as an educational institution may lead us both out of anxiety and toward ideas that may alter the future for the better.


How We Are Approaching Your Education For The Rest of the Semester

We are shifting to distance learning for the rest of the semester. This is what that means:

Classes will be held at their regularly scheduled times, but not necessarily for the same length of time or contact hours. For smaller classes, your faculty member might contact you to hold class at a different time after the first week of classes. A course will not be rescheduled to a time slot that was already reserved for another regularly scheduled class. No student should be dropping a class because another faculty member has rescheduled a class. Your faculty are working to observe previously scheduled class meeting times.

Every student cannot be expected to participate in all live presentations due to time zone or other constraints, so your faculty are encouraged to also provide you with a recorded version of every class meeting.

Most classes will adopt a hybrid formula, deploying live lectures on Zoom, chat room discussions of the entire class or groups of students, opportunities for blog postings, writing assignments, small-group work, etc.

For classes with an emphasis on experiential learning, such as science labs and performing arts, by necessity, some of the goals and objectives of the courses will have to be adapted to the new delivery system. Faculty are finding ingenious ways to make up for the in-class experience.

About Evaluation

As noted above, the rest of the semester will be Credit/No Credit. Students will have the option to uncover their grades should they wish to do so at the close of the semester.

Faculty will define their form of evaluation individually for midterms, final exams, and/or final projects. Needless to say, we trust that you will uphold our expectations for Academic Honesty and Integrity as they are laid out in our Student Handbook. Faculty will be very clear about the expectations they have for your assignments/exams/etc., and they might ask you to close each paper, assignment, or exam with their promise to have observed academic honesty in the completion of the project.


The College is fully committed to giving students the opportunity to complete their senior Honors work and their Swarthmore education. The director of the Honors Program, Grace Ledbetter, will continue to be in touch with seniors in the Honors Program to assure that they are able to complete their Honors work and to assist with getting students any materials they need. The written and oral exams will be conducted remotely during the scheduled written and oral exam periods. Details will follow. Examiners will be informed of the disruptions that have occurred. Please feel free to contact Grace Ledbetter at

Revised Academic Calendar/New Due Dates:

  • Advising | Monday, April 13 — Friday, April 24
  • Preregistration | Monday, April 27 — Wednesday, April 29
  • Course Withdrawal Deadline — May 1
  • Classes End | Friday, May 1 (unchanged)
  • Lotteries | Thursday, April 30 — Tuesday, May 5
  • Drop/Add | Starts Wednesday, May 6
  • Finals Start | Thursday, May 7 — (unchanged)


Faculty Support

Departments and programs will reach out to you directly, but do not hesitate to contact department chairs, program coordinators, and department and program administrative assistants should you need any other information. They look forward to assisting you in returning to our virtual campus for the rest of the semester. Many have shared messages that you will find here.

Dean’s Office Support

  • The Registrar’s Office can help with preregistration, honors, transcripts, the CR/ NC policy, and Course Withdrawal. Email and/or look for answers to many questions at
  • Every student has an assigned student dean. (See degree audit in mySwarthmore for information.) Student deans remain available by email or video conference for consultation and academic support.
  • For questions about disability accommodations, please contact Director of Student Disability Services Monica Vance at
  • For information on tutoring and tutor requests, please visit the tutoring page.

ITS and Remote Learning Support

Information Technology Services has been at work since the beginning of this crisis to ensure a seamless transition to remote learning. ITS has a page of resources dedicated exclusively to students. You can be in touch with ITS for advice/consultation at or 610-328-8513.

Course Materials: The Libraries and the Bookstore

The Libraries remain dedicated as partners in achieving your academic goals. The librarians are here to help you find materials including textbooks and reserves, generate ideas for a project, and discover and access research sources.

Library Resources

  • Search Tripod for access to materials.
  • To request a digital version of a physical item, use the form linked in the Tripod record.
    get it: request digital book


  • The library will attempt to acquire an ebook or streamed-video version for you.
  • Unsure how to access these resources from off campus? This document will guide you.
  • Many Film & Video Collection materials are available for streaming.

Additional detailed information is linked from the Libraries homepage in the Library Services for Online Distance Learning.

Meanwhile, the Swarthmore Campus & Community Store has also provided an exceptional program to ensure that students have access to the materials they need to succeed in their courses.

Off-Campus and Study Abroad

Our Off-Campus Study Office and the International Travel Risk Committee have been working with all students traveling domestically and internationally to organize their return to the United States if they are abroad or to make appropriate plans for the rest of the semester.

Effective through the end of the semester, all College-sponsored travel, both international and domestic, is prohibited. Students who had been approved for College-sponsored travel during this time should have made arrangements to cancel their trips by now. At present, no new conference travel will be approved. 


The Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility and the Center for Innovation and Leadership have provided information on how they plan to operate through the spring semester.

Student Summer Research

While summer awards were granted for the specific projects described in student applications, we recognize that many of these plans may no longer be desirable or possible. We urge you to look for possible substitutes, perhaps involving domestic instead of international programs, online instead of in-person courses, or independent research or creative activities instead of participation in programs. If you wish or need to change to an alternative project, you should contact the faculty member who wrote in support of your original application, or the relevant department chair, to request approval for the change. We all recognize that these are difficult times and that everyone will need to be flexible and creative. Expect to hear some news later in April.

For students with Natural Sciences and Engineering awards for research with a Swarthmore faculty supervisor, please check in with your supervisor if you haven't already heard from them. A few NSE faculty may be able to reconfigure projects to make them workable online, but this will not work for most laboratory and field research. All faculty, along with everyone else, will be adjusting their plans as the College’s and the nation’s response to COVID-19 evolves.