March 20, 2020

Dear students,

With classes resuming on Monday, remotely, and in unprecedented, even historic circumstances, it is clear that challenges confront you. Over the past two weeks, many of you have told me about your difficulty in focusing on your studies in your current living situations. Some of you are caring for family members who are ill or who have lost their jobs. Some of you are taking care of siblings. Others of you lack equipment or internet access. Still others of you are now in different time zones, in some cases extremely distant ones. I know from hearing from so many of you, either directly or through your faculty mentors, heads, deans, cultural center directors, coaches, and advisers, or through the Yale College Council, that you and your families are struggling. I am thinking of all of you right now.

Many of you are concerned about finances, so let me address those first: most of you will soon be receiving pro-rated refunds for room and board. My colleagues are working hard for you to receive those funds soon so that they can help you meet your expenses. My office will also continue to support high-need students through Safety Net and through other outreach to students on high levels of financial aid, especially those who need internet connectivity, hardware, and software for the rest of the term. You can find more information about refunds, and answers to many other questions, on the student FAQ page, which will be updated as needed.

I know that you are also concerned about how to continue your academic work. To give you maximum flexibility in the weeks ahead, I have established academic accommodations meant to support you, recognize the work you have done already, and help you collaborate with your instructors to reach your goals for the semester. I have urged the faculty to explore new pedagogical innovations and to be as flexible and creative as possible with participation requirements, assignments, deadlines, and assessments. You can learn more about those accommodations on the student FAQ page; to see what I have recommended to the faculty, you can view the faculty FAQ page.

I have also established accommodations through new grading options. For the spring 2020 term: 

  • You may take any or even all of your courses using the Credit/D/F option, and they will not count against the usual limitations of Credit/D/Fail courses allowed in a single semester or toward the bachelor's degree. 
  • You may take any course this semester using the Credit/D/Fail option to fulfill distributional requirements or requirements for your major, including your senior essay. 
  • You have until 5:00 p.m. on May 6, 2020, the last day of finals, to make this decision, along with the option to withdraw from a course without a mark of W, unless you need the W to reflect full-time enrollment. 
  • You may request a grade of Pass for courses that you are unable to complete if you have completed sufficient work to warrant the Pass; if you wish to consider this option, consult directly with your instructor. 
  • Grades for this semester will not be factored into the calculation of general honors, distinction in the major, or other awards; for graduating seniors, I have asked the faculty to use other criteria to recognize you based on your achievements in prior semesters or up to spring break this semester. 

I have benefited from hearing from hundreds of you in establishing these accommodations, and I am grateful to you for communicating with me. I have also benefited from the counsel of the directors of undergraduate studies, deans in the Yale College Dean’s Office and Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, the FAS Senate, heads and deans of the residential colleges, the registrar’s office, scores of faculty members, and the Yale College Council.

Support for the accommodations above has been overwhelming. In addition, many students and faculty members have advocated passionately for all classes, universally, to receive a grade of Pass or Pass/Fail, without the option for any letter grades for any student. At the same time, just as many students and faculty members have advocated, with equal passion, against such a Universal Pass or Universal Pass/Fail policy, but for giving students the flexibility to manage their many different needs.

I have not had the opportunity to discuss these matters with the broader Yale College faculty, but I plan to at its next regularly scheduled meeting, on April 2. Until then, I ask that you continue discussing – respectfully and with an open mind – its pros and cons with each other and with the faculty. For my part, I will continue to study your requests and be in conversation with the YCC, which has prepared a report comparing the different grading policies. To further ensure that I have everyone’s informed thoughts to share with the faculty, later next week, after we have settled into classes, I will post a link on the Yale College FAQ page for you to provide your feedback on remote learning and grading policies. I will work with the YCC to let you know when this is ready.

The challenges ahead are not insurmountable, and you are not facing them alone: you are still connected with your classmates, friends, and peers; you have the support of the faculty and the staff; and you now carry with you, wherever you are, the sense of community that you have built here on campus. I have full faith in you, and I am right here with you as we start these next extraordinary weeks together.


Marvin M. Chun
Dean of Yale College
Richard M. Colgate Professor of Psychology; Neuroscience; Cognitive Science