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March 31, 2020 - Follow-up to Emergency Academic Regulations: Additional Guidance re Alternate Grades

Dear Colleagues,

I hope that yesterday went well for you as we adjust to this new world of remote teaching and learning.

As you know, the Emergency Academic Regulations announced on March 15 mandate that “alternate grades” (PE, NE, and IE) be used in all subjects this semester.  As instructors work on formulating plans for grading under the new system, questions have arisen as to how to interpret some of the emergency grading regulations.  We have assembled the following to address several of the frequently asked questions that we have been receiving.

(1) Can I give students letter grades as feedback on assignments and examinations?
Yes, although you are not required to do so, and qualitative feedback (or qualitative translation of numerical scores) may be good alternatives. In any case, Instructors should provide feedback to students in whatever form is most pedagogically helpful in their subject, taking into account the disrupted circumstances of this semester. That feedback should be sensitive to the fact that students will be differently impacted in their opportunity to demonstrate performance this spring.

(2) Can I indicate a letter grade for a student as part of a letter of recommendation?
No. Consistent with the mandatory requirement for alternate grades, specific letter grades should not be indicated in a letter of recommendation. However, Instructors may craft recommendation letters that provide an evaluation of a student's level of achievement in words, without referring to a letter grade, and which reference the challenging circumstances a student may have overcome or experienced this semester.

(3) How will grades be reported at the end of the semester?
Faculty will be presented with a drop down of grades according to whether their subject is full term, H4, or H3 or whether the subject is designated to use “J”, “U”, or “T” grades.  For most full term and H4 subjects, faculty will select from PE, IE, NE, or O.  For a small subset of subjects (e.g., thesis, independent research, etc.), the additional grades of “J”, “U”, or “T” will also be available.  For H3 subjects, instructors must choose between standard grades and alternate grades, and the system will not allow instructors to mix the grade types for different students in a class.  

(4) What happens to a grade of IE when it is subsequently completed?
As discussed in the Emergency Academic Regulations (long version), if a student receives a grade of IE and subsequently completes the work, the student’s grade will be changed to show IE/PE.

(5) May I give all of the students in a class a grade of IE?
This is strongly discouraged to avoid situations where a student has multiple incompletes pending after the end of the semester and in view of the uncertain situation with regard to the pandemic in the future.

Answers to other frequently asked questions on the emergency regulations can be accessed on the Registrar's website.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me at with any questions on grading or any other aspect of the Emergency Academic Regulations. 

A. C. Cope Professor
Chair of the MIT Faculty

Rick Danheiser
A. C. Cope Professor
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department of Chemistry
Room 18-298
Cambridge, MA 02139
Tel 617 253 1842
Cell 617 480 3948