Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Updates

Information and resources for the CMU community

Scotty with mask and vaccination bandaid
March 16, 2020

Grading Policy Changes and First Week Expectations

Dear Carnegie Mellon Students:

We appreciate your patience as the university makes this unique transition to remote and online learning beginning on Wednesday, March 18. We understand this comes with challenges for you and our faculty. However, it is important that we move forward to ensure your academic progress isn’t interrupted, especially those of you who are graduating. We also want to ensure we are able to maintain the spring calendar end date to allow you to pursue activity planned for the summer. By starting this week, we can quickly identify any challenges that need to be addressed immediately. You and our faculty together will need to learn both the technology and online etiquette needed for us to interact best with one another remotely. We are very proud of how our community has responded to this unprecedented situation. We have already received examples of teaching innovation that show our creativity and commitment.

Below are important updates we ask that you read through until the end. They are relevant as of this writing, but we recognize further changes are likely to be announced as guidance from county health experts and our local government officials is issued. Thank you for your patience and diligence reading all communications from the university. Details posted in our messages are also being regularly updated on CMU’s coronavirus website.

Attendance & Flexibility

As we start on Wednesday, we ask you and our faculty to be flexible with one another. It’s not unlike the first day of a semester: learning new routines and adjusting to unexpected scenarios. We have asked the deans to convey our expectation to faculty that they be flexible with assignment due dates and not schedule exams or assignments during this first week. Instructors have been asked to work with those of you who may have difficulty attending some of your scheduled classes. In addition, our faculty have been asked to record their course lectures and make them available to those of you who might have trouble getting online this week. If you need support, please contact the Computing Services Help Center at 412-268-4357 (HELP). If you need additional instructional support, the new Academic Success Center has transitioned to remote services that can be found on its website. There are also a number of FAQs available on the university’s coronavirus website that may also be helpful to you. You can also contact your college and departmental advisors for additional guidance.

Grading Policy

In addition to the above-described flexibility for the first week back, we have also anticipated the need to create a temporary modification to the grading policy for this spring that is reflective of this extraordinary situation. We have made this decision after consulting with Faculty Senate, Student Government and the CMU leadership team.

Effective immediately, all undergraduate and graduate students will be permitted to convert any of your courses to pass/no-pass grading for this semester. All courses for which you receive passing (P) grades will count toward degree requirements, which overrides some departmental or college policies. At the end of the semester, all faculty will submit their course grades (A-R) to the registrar’s office. You will have 7 days after the date on which final grades are posted to choose to move your courses to pass/no-pass grading if you elect to do so. In recognition that each course’s learning experience will be different, there is no limit on the number of courses you can convert to pass/no-pass grading. You can make the decision on a course-by-course basis. At the undergraduate level, all grades of D or better in a course for which you elect the pass/no-pass grade will convert to P. At the graduate level, the grade for which a P can be assigned if you elect to have your course be pass/no-pass will be made at the school or college level. Further guidance will be communicated to you in the coming weeks as classes resume.

The decision to allow this flexibility is a direct acknowledgement of this unprecedented situation. We expect our remote courses to maintain the highest quality instruction possible. We expect you to continue to seek the most from your courses. Our advisors are ready to assist in determining what is in your own best interest in the short- and long-term.

Academic Calendar

We are committed to maintaining the integrity of our educational offerings without extending the academic calendar to make up for the days missed this week. The university is adjusting the academic calendar to convert the original days off for Spring Carnival, April 16 and 17, to make-up days for missing classes on the Monday and Tuesday of this week, March 16 and 17.

Doctoral and Master’s Degree Students Conducting Research or Teaching

Together with the deans, vice provosts and vice president for research, we have been actively planning to support your experience in a way that is unique to your special role on campus. It is our intention that any of you receiving stipends and associated support, such as health care insurance premium coverage, will continue to receive that support through the remainder of the semester as you work toward your degree remotely.

Currently, master’s degree and Ph.D. students performing research are permitted to be on campus, but we urge you to use social distancing strategies. We are encouraging supervisors to find ways for you to work on your research remotely, wherever practicable. Under no circumstances should a student who is uncomfortable coming to campus for research-related activities be compelled to do so.

It is also important to keep in mind that federal grants frequently do not allow for work to be done outside of the United States unless granted prior approval. You and your faculty supervisor(s) must work with their research administrators and OSP to determine what is allowable for the specific circumstances.

We know that many of you may have questions. Please reach out to your faculty advisor, departmental coordinator or leadership with questions about continuity of your financial support. If you need further assistance navigating any challenges, contact your Student Affairs college liaison for assistance on how to best resolve any concerns or questions you may have regarding your personal situation.

General Support

We have developed more robust FAQ pages for student audiences where information will continue to be updated. If you have a question about issues such as health insurance, financial hardship imposed by our move to remote instruction, etc., please consult the FAQs. Staff from The Office of the Dean of Students and college liaisons are available to all students who may need particular support during this challenging time.

Student Readiness

Yesterday you received an email from Amy Burkert, vice provost for education, and Stan Waddell, associate vice president and chief information officer, that outlines some resources and suggestions on how to prepare for the transition to remote and online courses. This included a survey that will help us to better understand the challenges that need to be addressed in the coming days. Please fill out this survey as soon as possible. We are committed to working with any of you who may have trouble accessing computer equipment or reliable internet service. In order to be responsive to those needs, we need all of you to fill out the readiness survey.


We have heard from some of you who live on campus that it has been stressful navigating the move out of housing, coupled with preparations for a move to remote and online instruction. If delaying your physical move helps alleviate that stress, please know that Housing Services is telling students that it is perfectly acceptable to just leave your belongings in your room for now, and determine a plan for moving out later in the semester. What is most important for now is that you make a decision about where you will complete the semester and declare that on the Housing survey so that team can make plans for serving the small residential population who will remain on campus.

In Closing

These are extraordinary times, and we are all doing our best to ensure we meet the needs of the community. We know this has not been an easy transition and expect that this situation will continue to introduce many unforeseen challenges and questions. We ask for your patience and flexibility as we implement this new remote and online educational approach together.

Carnegie Mellon is a university that values innovation and creativity. We will need to lean on those values, and one another, in the coming weeks. Please take care of yourselves and each other and know that we hold paramount your health and safety and our educational mission.


Jim Garrett, Provost
Gina Casalegno, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students