November 30, 2020

Dear Students and Colleagues,

I am writing on behalf of the Academic Policy and Regulations Team (APART) to inform you of the grading policies that will be in effect this spring. As was the case in the fall semester, a letter grading system with extra flexibility will be in effect with a few small differences. Further details are provided below, but the key features are that for undergraduate and graduate subjects, the grades awarded to upperclass undergraduate students and graduate students include A, B, C, D/NE, and F/NE, where NE indicates that no record will appear on the external transcript. First-year undergraduate students will be graded A, B, C, D/NR, and F/NR in the spring semester. In addition, all students may elect to have one subject graded PE/NE in the spring semester. In contrast to the fall semester, the “normal” Junior-Senior and Graduate P/D/F options will be available to eligible students this spring.

Please note that in the event that the conditions of the pandemic worsen significantly during or prior to the semester, it is possible that a system of alternate grades (“universal” PE/NE) could be mandated for all subjects, as was the case last spring.

A longer, detailed version of the spring grading policy is also available.

With best wishes to all during these challenging times,

Rick

Rick L. Danheiser
A. C. Cope Professor and
Chair of the MIT Faculty

Note: This was sent to all students, all instructors, department/section heads, undergraduate/graduate officers and administrators, assistant deans, and administrative officers.


The policies on grading described here were developed by APART after several weeks of deliberation and following consultation with a number of people including David Randall (senior associate dean, Student Support Services), DiOnetta Crayton and Somiya Kalloo (the director and the assistant dean in the Office of Minority Education), and Elizabeth Young (associate dean, Office of the First Year). The membership of APART is listed below and includes students, the director of the Teaching and Learning Lab, the registrar, and 15 members of the faculty, including the current and recent former chairs of the key faculty governance committees concerned with the Institute’s educational mission.

The policy for the spring semester is largely based on the policy used in this fall. The fall grading policy was developed after reviewing the Undergraduate Association (UA) Report on Fall 2020 Grading Options and a report from the Academic Policy Solutions Group of the Graduate Student Council (GSC), and after meetings with groups of undergraduate and graduate students organized by the UA and GSC. APART also met with David Randall (senior associate dean of Student Support Services), Karen Singleton (chief of Mental Health and Counseling), Suraiya Baluch (associate dean, Graduate Student Support), and Gerardo Garcia-Rios (associate dean and co-director, Student Support Services). Finally, for the fall grading policy, APART solicited and received feedback via survey forms and letters from 29 departments and academic programs, as well as from the Office of Minority Education.

  1. In spring 2021, instructors will submit grades of A, B, C, D, and F for all students.
  2. For performance at the level of F, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students will receive internal grades of F/NE, and first-year students will receive internal grades of F/NR. No record of the class will appear on the external transcript.
  3. For performance at the level of D, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students will receive internal grades of D/NE, and first-year students will receive internal grades of D/NR. No record of the class will appear on the external transcript. Students who receive a grade of D/NE can elect to accept a grade of D (e.g., to fulfill a requirement for graduation) or, alternatively, can accept the default of having no record of the class appear on their external transcript. This option is not available to first-year students who receive a grade of D/NR.
  4. All students will have the option to have one subject graded as PE/NE, where these grades are defined as in Rules and Regulations 2.64 (PE reflects performance at any of the levels A, B, or C; NE indicates performance at the level of D or F for which no record will appear on the external transcript). The decision to elect this option must be made by Drop Date (April 29) and as for all changes in registration, it must be approved by the student’s academic advisor. First-year students electing PE/NE will receive internal grades of PE, D/NE and F/NE for that subject, but will not have the option to convert the D/NE to a D.
  5. If a minor part of the requirements for a subject is not fulfilled, the instructor can assign a grade of IE, which has a more flexible deadline for completion as compared to the normal grade of I (Incomplete). In addition, a grade of IE does not have to be resolved prior to graduation; however, an unresolved IE does not carry credit, and incomplete subjects required for graduation by the Institute or by a departmental program must be completed prior to graduation.
  6. The “normal” Junior-Senior P/D/F Option and Graduate P/D/F Option will be available this spring, with the normal restrictions on use of those P/D/F options. Exercising or having previously exercised the PE/NE option will not affect the count or availability of the normal Junior-Senior and Graduate P/D/F options. The decision to elect this option must be made by Add Date (March 19) and as for all changes in registration, it must be approved by the student’s academic advisor.
  7. As in normal semesters, sophomores may designate one subject as Exploratory. With an Exploratory subject, the student can either accept the grade awarded or change to listener status (in which case they receive no credit and the class does not appear on their transcript). This option is in addition to the option to have a subject graded PE/NE described in (4) above.
  8. Sophomores and juniors are covered by Phases One and Two of the CUP Experiment, under which they have the option to designate by Add Date (March 19) up to three science core GIRs as P/NR in any semester after the first semester of their first year. These students will retain this option, which is in addition to the option of electing one subject to be graded PE/NE as described above.
  9. First-year undergraduate students are covered by the new Flex P/NR grading option, under which they have the option to designate up to 48 units to be graded on a P/NR basis after their first term and at any time during their course of study. Any subject is eligible for Flex P/NR designation including those that fulfill general Institute or departmental requirements. To use the Flex P/NR option, students must designate the subject(s) after final grades are submitted and before Add Date of their next enrolled regular term. Spring 2021 first-year students will retain this option in addition to the option of electing one subject to be graded PE/NE as described above.
  10. Subjects that are normally graded as P/D/F, e.g., some UROPs, will continue to have grades submitted as P, D, or F, but these grades will be recorded by the registrar as P, D/NE (D/NR), or F/NE (F/NR), where NE indicates that no record will appear on the external transcript. No academic credit will be received for recorded grades of D/NE (D/NR) and F/NE (F/NR). However, students will have the option of changing a D/NE to a D by Add Date of the fall 2021 semester.

Academic Policy and Regulations Team

  • Rick Danheiser, Chair of the Faculty and Chair of APART (Science, Chemistry)
  • Arthur Bahr, Chair of CUP (SHASS, Literature)
  • Rebecca Black, Graduate Student Member of FPC (2019-2020)
  • Duane Boning, Associate Chair of the Faculty (Engineering, EECS)
  • Brian Canavan, Registrar
  • Michael Cusumano, Deputy Dean of the Sloan School of Management (Sloan)
  • Daniel Frey, Recent Former Chair of CGP (Engineering, MechE)
  • Martha Gray, Chair of CGP (Engineering, EECS, IMES)
  • Ananya Gurumuthy, Co-Chair, Undergraduate Association Committee on Education
  • Jeremiah Johnson, Chair of CAP (Science, Chemistry)
  • Tami Kaplan, Faculty Governance Administrator
  • Anne McCants (SHASS, History, Director of Concourse)
  • William Minicozzi, Chair of CoC, Associate Head of Math (Science)
  • Kristala Prather, Recent Former Chair of CAP, Executive Officer of ChemE (Engineering)
  • Krishna Rajagopal, Dean for Digital Learning (Science, Physics)
  • Janet Rankin, Director of the MIT Teaching and Learning Lab
  • David Singer, Secretary of the Faculty, Head of Political Science (SHASS)
  • Lily Tsai, Chair-Elect of the Faculty, Political Science (SHASS)
  • Larry Vale, Associate Dean of SA+P (DUSP)
  • Ian Waitz, Vice Chancellor (Engineering, AeroAstro)