Fall 2020 Academic Grading and Withdraw Policies

Nov. 9, 2020


To:           Arizona Students, Faculty, and Staff

From:      Liesl Folks, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

Date:       November 9, 2020

Subject:   Fall 2020 Academic Grading and Withdraw policies

I so appreciate you reaching out to share your feedback, and for bringing forward your request for the P/F option to be widely available again in the Fall 2020 semester.  I can assure you that we have dedicated a great deal of consideration to this particular question, and are deeply concerned about how best to support all our students through this most challenging period.

As background; In the Spring semester we adjusted several key academic policies to provide as much flexibility to students as possible, including with the P/F grading option, recognizing that the mid-semester disruption impacted learning for many students.  At the time we were aware the P/F grading policy change would introduce a different set of problems for some students, including:

  • Many key foundational courses in Math and second languages require grades of C or better to proceed to the next academic level of study.
  • Most institutions do not accept transfer courses with a P/F grade.
  • P/F grades most often do not meet external scholarship renewal requirements.
  • Graduate and professional programs require letter grades for admission purposes.

As planned, the revised Academic Policies and Eligibility requirements returned to approved standards following the Spring semester.  A group of faculty and institutional experts was convened in August to consider whether adjustments in academic policy, such as the use of P/F grades, were again warranted.  That group reviewed student outcomes data from Spring 2020 semester, considered potential implications for different student cohorts, and, after careful consideration, determined that it would be in the best interests of students, as well as for degree integrity, to not return to P/F grading option in the Fall semester. 

The proposal to re-institute the P/F grade option for Fall 2020 has been carefully considered and discussed by the Pandemic Academic Coordination (PAC) workgroup.  In addition to reconsidering the various negative possible implications of the P/F grade option outlined above, the PAC members raised equity concerns, including:

  • Students did not have a P/F option during the summer sessions.
  • Students who completed courses in the first 7.5 week session in Fall 2020 did not have an option for P/F.

PAC also expressed grave concern that if P/F adjustments were made for the Fall semester, some students could have more than one semester of course work with P/F grades, potentially severely limiting their options for academic progression.

For these reasons, we will not be re-instituting the P/F option for Fall 2020, although I recognize that this will be a disappointing outcome for many.

We are however making these 2 changes, with the goal of reducing stress for students;

  • Suspend the ‘W’ Grade Unit Maximum (18 units) policy for Undergraduate students.
  • Extend the Withdrawal deadline for all students the fall semester to November 25th

Additional details on the individual course withdraw and academic grading policies and considerations can be found on the Office of the Registrar Fall 2020 Information and updates page.