Message to UVM Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in sudden and extensive transitions in the ways in which we teach, learn, work, and communicate. What has not changed is the strength of our community and our commitment to each other.

I understand that my message earlier this week did not offer the immediate answers many of you wanted. Throughout this discussion, I have been guided by three important principles: ensuring the academic integrity of instruction, providing a fair assessment of student performance, and honoring the work that our students have done, and will continue to do. I have worked with the academic leadership, and collaborated with the Faculty Senate’s Student Affairs Committee and Faculty Senate Leadership to thoroughly explore the many consequences of suspending our current grading policies. I know that a number of other institutions were quick to change their grading practices for the current semester, but further probing revealed uncertainty around how they were going to implement many of their changes. As part of my commitment to you, I did not want to make any promises I could not keep, nor did I think it prudent to rush into changes whose potential negative impacts outweighed their benefits. I also wanted our students and faculty to have more time to adjust to remote instruction and to ensure that students didn’t take action or make decisions about their education assuming that a blanket shift to pass/no pass was imminent.

I have heard from many students over the last several days while we explored the possibilities and ramifications of changes to a number of our academic policies and standards. Your feedback has been valuable, as has that of the Faculty Senate and emerging guidance from accrediting bodies and federal agencies. We are now in a position to present a thoughtful approach to academic flexibility for the Spring 2020 semester. My goal is to ensure students feel supported and heard by our institution in these difficult times, while also ensuring safeguards for their future academic and professional success. This required a deliberate process for implementing options for academic flexibility.

The following accommodations have been established for the Spring 2020 semester only:

  • Letter grades will be recorded for the semester. Students will have the option to elect Pass/No Pass (S/U for graduate students) by May 14 at noon.

  • Courses in which students earned a “Pass” (P) will count towards major, minor, and degree requirements, with the exception of courses in which a specific grade is required for progression or licensure requirements (see next bullet).

  • Students are responsible for understanding the implications of their decision to move to Pass/No Pass for courses related to their program’s major requirements, progression standards, and accreditation and licensing requirements.

  • Once a student has elected a Pass/No Pass option, that decision cannot be reversed.

  • For grades earned in Spring 2020, UVM will accept Pass grades as sufficient for transfer credit.

  • Colleges will waive academic dismissal decisions based on performance this semester.

  • Academic Probation policies are college/school specific. The Provost’s Office is encouraging colleges to be thoughtful in their use of academic probation this semester.

  • For scholarships impacted by GPA, a one-time allowance will be made as follows. The cumulative GPA (calculated based on Pass/No Pass decisions) will be evaluated for each student at the end of the Spring 2020 term. For students who fall below a 3.0 cumulative GPA at that time, the Spring 2020 term GPA will be removed and the cumulative GPA recalculated without it. If the recalculated cumulative GPA is a 3.0 or higher, the student will maintain scholarship eligibility. For all future reviews, the Spring 2020 GPA will be included.

  • Students are able to withdraw from any course through April 3. Please note that a student who chooses to, or must, withdraw from all coursework for the Spring 2020 semester, will still maintain scholarship eligibility for the next year as long as they meet the other criteria for renewal and have not exhausted their scholarship length. Check the Student Financial Services website for details regarding the other renewal criteria and scholarship length.

  • Students granted incompletes will have the full academic year (until May 7, 2021) to submit the work necessary to convert their incomplete to a final grade.

Students are being given an important responsibility for carefully weighing the potential impacts of these options (Pass/No Pass in particular). Students are advised to consult with their academic advisors and Student Financial Services to understand the full consequences of their decisions for their particular academic major, graduate school candidacy, financial aid standing, and career path. Students should begin to explore the implications of these decisions in early April so they are prepared to make informed decisions in May.

In conjunction with student services staff, the Provost’s Office will develop guidance tools (“decision trees”) to help students decide which, if any, of their courses to change to Pass/No Pass grading.

I believe that the accommodations outlined above will serve the best interests of students at the University of Vermont. I understand that we are all experiencing the stress associated with disruption and the unknown, but I am confident that our persistence and resilience will see us through. We will emerge from this experience with new skills and perspectives that will help us build a better future.

Please take care of yourselves and each other.

Patricia A. Prelock, Provost and Senior Vice President