A Message to Penn PhD students

April 9, 2020


To all Penn PhD students:

I know that the past few weeks have been very challenging, and I am immensely grateful for your patience and mutual support of each other as we all navigate these unprecedented times. While I am encouraged by the ways in which our Penn community has come together to adapt to learning and teaching remotely, as well as balancing the demands that this pandemic has put on all of us, I also recognize that the disruptions to our semester have been, and will continue to be, substantial.

Along these lines, I am writing with some major academic updates related to this semester. We have decided to extend the deadline for all PhD students, across all Schools, to change the grade type in any course for the Spring 2020 term. You have until Wednesday, April 29 – the last day of classes – to choose to take any course pass/fail. You must “opt in” to this expanded pass/fail option, and any courses taken on a pass/fail basis during Spring 2020 do not count against the total number of courses you may take pass/fail.

Collectively, we encourage all students to take advantage of the expanded pass/fail option this term and want to ensure students will not feel penalized for doing so. We have heard concerns from students about feeling pressure to continue taking courses for a letter grade. I want to also notify you that there will be a notation placed on every student’s transcript to recognize and honor the extraordinary disruption to the Spring 2020 term and the changes in academic policies. While we expect that employers will take a holistic approach to reviewing students’ records, we want to ensure we have done what we can to note these policy changes on your academic records.

I am confident that our great Penn faculty, staff and students will continue the outstanding efforts of this semester and are mutually committed to supporting each other. At the same time, we know that many challenges still lie ahead. That is why we are providing these expanded academic supports for all PhD students this semester. We strongly encourage you to discuss your plan with your academic advisor in the days and weeks ahead.

Thanks to all of you as we together continue our most profound mission of education at Penn. We will continue to keep you informed as the semester moves forward.


Be well and be kind,

Beth A. Winkelstein, Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Education
Eduardo D. Glandt President's Distinguished Professor
University of Pennsylvania


Last Updated 04/01/2020 - 13:31