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Duke pushes S/U, letter grade decision deadline to April 27

Undergraduate students will now have a few more days to decide whether they'd like to be graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory scale or receive a letter grade.

The University extended the deadline to April 27 at noon, five days later than the April 22 date outlined in the original post-COVID-19 grading policy shift. The extension applies to all undergraduate courses and includes 500- and 600-level courses. The default grading option is S/U, so students have to opt in to a letter grade.

The past weeks have seen a variety of student petitions about the grading policy, as some have argued for universal S/U or a universal satisfactory system. Duke Student Government Senate also passed a resolution April 8 urging for students to be able to see their grades before making a choice.

"Now, as we near the end of the semester, we appreciate that many students are wrestling with a host of pressing challenges, including preparing for final exams, arranging summer plans, and, for some, deciding whether to retain or convert the default S/U grade," wrote Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education, and other administrators in an email obtained by The Chronicle. 

In an email sent to students several hours later, he announced the change and mentioned that faculty had previously been instructed to be flexible and share grading information if possible.

In a statement to DSG, Bennett and Mary Pat McMahon, vice president and vice provost for student affairs, wrote that they were unable to accommodate the resolution due to a time crunch with the registrar's office. The statement was shared by DSG President Liv McKinney, a senior, in a Friday evening email to undergraduates.

“There were several challenges with the proposed [DSG] plan, particularly given the timing," they wrote. "The University registrar needs sufficient time to validate that seniors met all requirements for graduation (a surprisingly time-intensive activity)."

They mentioned that the extra time would make it challenging to assess the impact on qualifying for Latin honors or providing verification of graduation for certain jobs. 

The statement also indicated that Provost Sally Kornbluth had been "involved in important national conversations" about the grading plan, and some programs viewed that the "integrity of S/U might be jeopardized" when students are able to see their final grade before making the choice.  

Bennett added that academic deans and college advisers will be available during reading period to discuss grading options with students. Students can email keeplearning@duke.edu for help as well.

He did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 9 p.m. to include details from Bennett's email to students and the statement to DSG.

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