April 8, 2020
Dear students, faculty, and staff:
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our lives, and many of our students are facing unprecedented challenges. Since January, staff and faculty have been working out how to support the needs of our students and also fulfill the academic mission of the college.
Today we are responding to a petition addressed to various Reed College offices. The petitioners have requested, among other things, that the college grant all students an automatic pass on their full year and spring term classes, or either an A or an A-, or no grade lower than their mid-term grades, and automatic extensions for senior theses. The student committee (SCAPP) that sends representatives to the faculty Committee on Academic Policy and Planning (CAPP) brought many of the concerns and requests reflected in the petition to CAPP for discussion, and CAPP considered it at length at its meeting on April 7.
We recognize that the pandemic poses unbelievable hardships on some members of our community. We share the goal of helping our students succeed during this extraordinary time. However, we do not believe that these proposed grading systems are the best ways to accomplish this. Such systems, in contrast to the Cr/NCr option that has been implemented, would undermine the meaningfulness of Reed grades and Reed GPAs going forward and threaten our ability to maintain our accreditation. This is not in Reed students’ best interests.
Given these unparalleled circumstances and the adjustments involved in moving online, the college has already significantly adjusted Reed’s grading system. Our goal is to balance meaningful grades with the need for compassion and flexibility. In consultation with department chairs and with CAPP, we made the decision on March 26 to offer flexible grading options that allow students to make informed choices based on their circumstances:
- Credit/No Credit. (Cr/NCr). Whereas very few classes are eligible for Credit/No Credit under normal circumstances, students can now opt to take most spring term classes for Cr/NCr; the exceptions are thesis and yearlong classes. Cr/NCr grades do not affect a student’s GPA.
- The deadline for the Cr/NCr option was initially extended to April 17, but CAPP has now extended that deadline to May 1, the final day of classes, so that students can see how they perform under their current circumstances.
- For students choosing the Cr/NC option, Grades of C- and D will qualify for credit. (Normally, a student needs to achieve a C or above to qualify for Cr.)
- All F grades will be converted into NCr whether or not a student has chosen the Cr/Nc option.
- Financial aid will not be affected by receiving Cr instead of a letter grade. Please read my letter of March 27, which includes more details.
- Faculty are grading with expectations that are appropriate to the situation students find themselves in through no fault of their own in these last 5 to 6 weeks of classes.
- Seniors can secure an extension for their theses by notifying their thesis advisers. The thesis adviser can assign the grade of Incomplete (IN) or Unfinished (U) and the student will have until August 31 to complete their thesis. The college will consider petitions for extensions beyond that date. We are waiving the $200 fee for students whose thesis is graded with a U.
We recognize that no grading policy will satisfy everyone, but we arrived at these decisions after robust and full discussion of the different considerations.
I want to underline too that students who are struggling should reach out to their instructors in order to find solutions that are suitable to their situations; instructors stand ready to help students find a successful way through their classes at this very difficult moment.
I want to close by affirming that we are working tirelessly to support students during this time. Examples of efforts we have made and resources available include the following:
- Materials for classes have been placed online; the library’s online holdings are very extensive. Librarians continue to work full-time and are available and eager to assist students with their theses and coursework.
- The CUS staff stands ready to assist students with connectivity, software, or hardware challenges to keep students connected to class meetings, individual consultation with faculty, and fellow students.
- Tutoring, academic support, and coaching are available to all students remotely.
- The college permitted students with pressing needs to stay on campus and instituted a process to review applications that was robust and fair. Many students who were offered on-campus housing turned it down.
- The college has encouraged students needing financial assistance to apply to our student emergency fund for support with such needs as transportation home, rental assistance, moving expenses, medical bills, food insecurity, and more. As of April 7, the college has received more than 80 requests and provided support for approximately 90 percent of them.
Reed’s faculty and staff care deeply about students' well-being and are committed to supporting their success during these challenging circumstances. Students should not hesitate to reach out to any member of the faculty or staff for academic or other support.
Dean of the Faculty and Walter Mintz Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Studies