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Message from Dean Randolph to Instructors - Spring Quarter 2020 Information

Dear Colleagues,

As we prepare for Spring Quarter, I wanted to offer you some information and updates. I have heard from some of you how welcome such clarifying communications are. I have heard from others how bewildering and confusing it is to receive so many emails from administrators. We will continue to try our best to steer a moderate course, keeping this feedback in mind.

The recent message from the Provost clarified various issues about grading, teaching, etc. We wanted to complement that message with some information relating directly to the norms and policies of the College. In this note, I will address three issues:

          Remote Teaching and Learning

          Grading this Spring Quarter

          Access to Buildings, Workspaces, and Facilities

As always, I want to remind you to please refer to the University’s Coronavirus/COVID-19 Updates and to the College’s Coronavirus Information website for the most accurate and up-to-date information about policies and best practices.

Remote Teaching and Learning

We have made significant strides over the last week to ensure we have a strong foundation for offering our classes remotely this Spring Quarter. NUIT and Weinberg IT have developed systems and support for our instructors, and those instructors have been offered opportunity and resources to structure their courses using Canvas and Zoom. Moreover, we have developed the Communities of Practice Experience (COPE), which facilitate instructor-to-instructor conversations about pedagogy and innovation. These virtual communities are structured around particular types of courses and aim to ensure there are opportunities for instructors to hear what others are doing. If you are interested in joining COPE, please contact Mary Finn ( My hope is that no one feels alone with the problems we will, undoubtedly, face.

One such problem may be instructors falling ill or unforeseen technical difficulties. Anticipating this, we ask departments, programs, and instructors to develop contingency plans: if feasible, for example, assign a back-up instructor for each class; this could be the class’s Teaching Assistant. If this is not possible, plan for alternate activities or assignments. For example, one might develop a back-up weekly assignment that students could complete either autonomously or in a small group.

Please note: We ask you all to follow the guidance set out in the messages from the Provost regarding the Recording of Synchronous Remote Class Content.

Grading this Spring Quarter

As you know, we will be offering a simplified grading schema this Spring Quarter. For undergraduate students, all students will receive a Pass or a No Pass. These grades will not contribute to GPAs, though a Pass will earn a unit of credit. Moreover, in the College, these courses can be counted toward fulfilling distribution requirements and requirements for the major. Details about grading in Spring Quarter can be found here. (Revised policies governing the use of Pass/No Pass for Winter Quarter can be found here as well.)

Please note: We will still solicit mid-quarter advisory grades, because we need to be able to identify students who are struggling. We ask, therefore, that you keep track of student performance using your usual system, whether it be through numerical grading or the use of quality (letter) grades. These grades will be advisory only; they will greatly help both College Advisers and major advisers.

For graduate students, the default will also be Pass/No Pass, but students can opt to receive a letter grade for particular, field-specific reasons. Please also note that the Graduate School’s Administrative Board has approved the following: “Grades of Pass (P) assigned in spring 2020 will count toward The Graduate School’s minimum degree and certificate requirements. Students still must have a cumulative GPA of at least a 3.0 to have a degree conferred.”

Access to Buildings, Workspaces, and Facilities

As you know, federal and state guidelines regarding sheltering-in-place and social distancing are dynamic. But, for now, it is clear that we best serve our society by working remotely. Although we have heard from many of you that you wish to have access to offices and/or laboratories either to secure needed materials for course preparation or as a site from which to teach once the term starts, at this point only essential on-site employees are permitted on campus. If you feel it essential to have access to campus, please inform your chair or director; we will work with them on evaluating the need for such access. But do remember that complying with best practices and working remotely is the very best way to keep our community safe.

These are very difficult times, yet I remain optimistic about our responses to the challenges we face. Please remain in touch. 


Adrian Randolph 

Dean of Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences
Henry Wade Rogers Professor of the Humanities
Northwestern University


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