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Clarifying Spring 2021 Grading Practices

I hope that you’re staying healthy and are faring well as we enter the end-of-semester home stretch. Congratulations: you’re almost there!

Recently, there have been questions asked about grading practices this semester, and specifically whether the university will be offering an across-the-board option for the Pass/Fail grade basis. The answer is “no”, for the reasons outlined below.

As you know, the P/F option was implemented in Spring 2020, due to the abrupt and necessary transition on March 16 from in-person instruction to remote and online. This was a common response by many colleges and universities to the extraordinary disruption of the pandemic, and I believe that students were well served by having that option available.

The Pass/Fail grade option was extended to Fall 2020, based on feedback from students and faculty, as well as a number of other factors internal and external to the university. Boise State was one of a relatively small number of campuses nationwide to make that option available in the fall, and it was the only university in the state of Idaho to do so. There, too, I believe that action served students’ interests well, despite the fact that our university was an outlier.

We are now in a different environment. Extending the P/F option to this semester introduces very real longer-term liability for students, in that it would place our graduates in a very small category of degree-holders with “Pass” grades on their transcripts this semester. My conversations with colleagues in industry and in higher ed indicate that employers and graduate program admission committees will look more favorably on a less-than-perfect “more standard” grade record than they would on an otherwise perfect transcript with “Pass” grades a year into the pandemic, when other schools aren’t doing this, due to perceptions about grade and transcript integrity.

I know that this remains a difficult time, and we are all feeling the acute pressures of our immediate situation. There are multiple structures and processes in place to support you in your academic and personal wellbeing. As always, please work closely with your academic advisor on any issues of concern, and don’t hesitate to reach out to Counseling Services. Either can guide you in navigating specific challenges that you might be facing.

Thank you for your attention, and best wishes to you academically and otherwise.


Dr. Tony Roark
Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs