Simmons announces emergency pass/fail policy due to COVID-19


Simmons students in all undergraduate and graduate programs now have the option to take a pass or fail grade for each of their classes, according to the new Emergency Pass/Fail Policy for the Spring 2020 semester.

This new policy replaces all previous policies, according to an April 7 email sent out by Provost Katie Conboy. After students receive a letter grade for each of their courses, they may change “any or all of their grades” to pass/fail.

Originally, a week after classes were moved online, the Provost’s Office told undergraduate students in an email that the pre-existing pass/fail policy would be extended by a week. This March 20 email stated that “all pass/fail policies in the course catalog remain in effect. Students may elect to take one course pass/fail.”

While some students were signing a petition created by graduate student Alison Baits calling for Simmons to institute pass/fail grading for all students to “ensure a more equitable grading principle,” a new policy was already being made, according to Provost Conboy. Also at this time, the Simmons Like Minds Coalition issued a statement in support of a universal pass/fail policy.

Changes to the policy were “already well underway” when the administration received the statement from Like Minds, Conboy told the Voice in a phone interview. “At that point, we had already made the decision of exactly what this was going to look like.”

After extending the date to change one class to pass/fail, Conboy said that the Provost’s Office and Deans agreed to monitor the situation as time went on in order to make the best possible decision for students, leading to the Emergency Pass/Fail Policy. Conboy noted that some students were concerned about the possibility of a blanket pass/fail policy, for fears that it may affect their GPA or admission to graduate school. 

“There are so many different circumstances that students are finding themselves in right now; it’s not one size fits all,” says Conboy. The new policy allows for students to decide course by course if they will keep their letter grade, or change it to a P/F.

Junior Kelly Phan switched her major to communications with a concentration in media arts, and says that being in a program that was a better fit raised her GPA. With continuing to receive good grades this semester, she was hoping for her GPA to go up even more. 

Despite wanting to receive letter grades for her classes, Phan says she understands that what is best for her may not be what’s best for everyone. 

“I think the new policy is good because it gives us flexibility to choose what we want after we know our grades,” says Phan. She adds that the Emergency Pass/Fail policy shows that the administration is acknowledging that students “may not be mentally and physically healthy enough to do our normal tasks in our everyday academic lives.” 

The Simmons Like Minds Coalition is pleased with the updated policy,  according to a statement made to the Voice. The executive board wrote, “It was great to see unity between different orgs and even different individuals who got in touch with us because they felt passionate about Simmons adopting a more equitable grading option.”

Conboy says that the Emergency Pass/Fail policy is “a really generous approach for students and one that we hope they’d be gratified that we took enough time to do well.”