Penn will allow undergraduates from all four schools to take any course pass/fail this semester, including those taken to satisfy major or general education requirements.
Provost Wendell Pritchett wrote in an email to Penn undergraduates Friday morning that students may opt in to take their classes pass/fail, and have until April 13 to do indicate so. He added that any courses taken pass/fail this semester will not count toward the total number of classes students may take pass/fail according to their school's policy.
Pritchett wrote that courses taken pass/fail will still satisfy major or general education requirements. In the College, pass/fail grades typically do not count toward major, minor, sector, or foundational approach requirements.
The email was co-signed by Vice Provost for Education Beth Winkelstein and the deans of the four undergraduate schools.
More than 3,400 people signed a petition urging Penn to make classes pass/fail in light of the coronavirus outbreak, citing the potential detriments that online classes may have on students' GPAs. College senior Jonathan Kohan started the petition on March 11, adding that professors may not know how to conduct online classes or use Zoom.
The University's announcement follows peer institutions making similar changes — Georgetown University and Carnegie Mellon University are also allowing students to opt in to pass/fail grading, while Smith College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are implementing mandatory grading systems that resemble pass/fail. Some universities, including Carnegie Mellon, will allow students to opt in to pass/fail until the end of the semester.
On March 11, Pritchett and Penn President Amy Gutmann announced that classes will be held online for the remainder of the semester beginning March 23 due to the coronavirus outbreak.