April 7, 2020

Dear faculty and students,

For the spring term of 2020, Yale College will adopt a policy of universal pass/fail, with a provision for instructors to provide narrative commendations, just as they can now.

This decision, in response to the global pandemic that has caused unprecedented disruptions, has support of both faculty and students. A faculty poll conducted yesterday by the Teaching and Learning Committee showed that among 537 respondents from the Yale College faculty meeting membership, 55% supported universal pass/fail with narrative commendations, 40% supported keeping the current optional Credit/D/F policy, and 5% percent chose to abstain. In addition, Yale College Council's recent poll showed that a majority of 4,618 student respondents – 69%-- supported a universal pass/fail option. With majorities of faculty and students supporting the universal pass/fail policy, this decision is final; I will no longer consider appeals, and I will now focus on implementing the policy. 

My message of last Friday described your compelling arguments and testimonies in favor of both policies, so I will not repeat them here. Although I regret that the decision extended into this week, the faculty needed the time to ensure a thorough and inclusive discussion for addressing such a complex question that had no easy answers. The extra few days were critical in bringing faculty and student views into closer alignment. 

For leading such respectful, compassionate, and rigorous discussions in the community, I thank the Yale College Committee on Teaching and Learning and the Yale College Council. I have relied on them both to help me synthesize so much information, both statistical and narrative. I am grateful to them, and to you, for considering all aspects of the policies we considered. 

Students: whatever your response to this decision, please know that in the month of school that remains, your teachers are deeply committed to continuing your education, and they are just as committed to acknowledging your efforts. In your own testimonies, you have affirmed your love of learning that brought you here and that you carry with you now. That is what connects you to Yale, as it always will, and to each other.

Please stay engaged, safe, and healthy. 


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


My letter of April 3, 2020, calls for two clarifications. 

In the YCC survey, students advocated for a universal pass/no-credit system. However, the grade of no-credit is not possible at Yale because it would complicate enrollment requirements for international students and many external scholarships. As a reminder, it should be extremely rare for any student to have to take a grade of F this term because of the flexibility of the accommodations available to you, including the ability to withdraw from a course without it appearing on your record.

In summarizing the highlights of the YCC survey, I had two inaccuracies in my statement, “Many of you have increased responsibilities at home, one in three of you is caring for someone who has fallen ill, and one in four of you is facing financial insecurity.” This should be corrected as, “Many of you have increased responsibilities at home, and among those who responded to the survey, one in three of you is caring for someone who is sick or immunocompromised, and one in four of you is facing financial insecurity.” I want to also clarify that “sick” does not mean any one illness, including COVID-19. I thank attentive readers for pointing out these inaccuracies, and I correct them with apologies and gratitude.