Dear GSAS Students,

Several weeks ago, GSAS implemented an emergency policy amendment that allows GSAS students to petition to take courses SAT/UNSAT for spring 2020 only, with the approval of the instructor and the student’s home program. Since that time, GSAS has heard from students and faculty asking us to consider extending that amendment to make all grading SAT/UNSAT by default.

As we investigated a mandatory policy, we heard repeatedly from students and faculty across GSAS about issues of fairness and equity in the increasingly tough and disruptive conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. These issues were raised for both mandatory SAT/UNSAT and for options that allowed for letter grades. We brought the issue to our two advisory committees, the Graduate Policy Committee made up of faculty across GSAS and the Committee on Graduate Education composed of students and faculty. After vigorous debates by both committees, both chose to recommend a policy of SAT/UNSAT for all GSAS students. We brought this recommendation to the Faculty Council, who approved the request earlier this week.

For spring 2020 only, all GSAS students enrolled in any course at the University will be graded on an “Emergency Satisfactory/Emergency Unsatisfactory” basis. This includes students who are taking courses at other Harvard Schools.

  • A clear notation of SEM/UEM will be included on all transcripts for the spring 2020 term to indicate that courses were graded SEM/UEM due to extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • All cases where students have already chosen the SAT/UNSAT option will have that grade option converted to the SEM/UEM basis.

The FAS Registrar’s Office will be implementing this new grading structure over the coming week. Faculty have been instructed to, wherever possible, provide qualitative letters of recommendation if further explanation of a student’s grade is required.
I know that many of you will be relieved by this decision, but that others will be disappointed. As discussed above, please know that this decision was made after a thoughtful process that included input from master’s and PhD students in programs across GSAS as well as the GSAS Student Council.
With all best wishes,
Emma Dench
Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History and of the Classics

Emergency Changes to Grading Policy