This email was sent to faculty on March 18, 2020

Dear colleagues,

The unprecedented challenges imposed by COVID-19 require us to consider novel ways to support the curricular efforts of our students and faculty. This is a moment that has been characterized by widespread anxiety, uncertainty, social, and geographic disruption. As academic leaders of this great university, we believe that bold action is necessary to maximize students’ curricular engagement.

Accordingly, during Spring 2020, we will transition courses to a satisfactory/unsatisfactory (S/U) grading option, but allow students the opportunity of receiving a letter grade.

Effective immediately, Spring 2020 courses will transition to a default S/U grading option. If students choose to receive a letter grade for any class, they can do so by submitting a form to the registrar’s office no later than April 22 at 5:00 pm EST.


  • Courses taken for S/U grades during Spring 2020 will count towards curricular, major, continuation, and graduation requirements.
  • Faculty will grade students as usual during the semester, and record the S/U designation using our existing rubric (where an S is equivalent to a C- or above).
  • Grades of S and U are not factored into a student’s grade point average.
  • This policy does not apply to 500/600-level courses. Although undergraduates may enroll in these graduate courses, they are subject to the grading policies of the hosting graduate program.
  • Given this shift, we will suspend the Dean’s List for the Spring 2020 semester.
  • Duke will include a designation on students’ transcripts, indicating the extraordinary circumstances encountered in the present semester.

We expect that this strategy will ease the necessary transitions into remote course delivery and promote strong engagement throughout this most extraordinary phase of Duke’s history.

We remind all colleagues to consult the excellent faculty resource, Keep Teaching (, which offers practical guidance for transitioning courses to remote delivery, using both low- and high-tech approaches. In particular, we strongly recommend that faculty attend to our recommendations for administering remote assignments and assessments (

Best wishes for a healthy, fulfilling, and intellectually stimulating semester.

Go Duke!

Sally Kornbluth, Provost

Valerie Ashby, Dean, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences

Ravi Bellamkonda, Dean, Pratt School of Engineering

Gary Bennett, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education

Jennifer Francis, Executive Vice Provost

Judith Kelley, Dean, Sanford School of Public Policy

Mary Pat McMahon, Vice Provost/Vice President Student Affairs

Toddi Steelman, Dean, Nicholas School of the Environment