November 16, 2020

Dear Students,
As we reach the final weeks of the fall semester, I want to express my appreciation and respect for your tenacity in persisting through an academic experience unlike any other in living memory. I admire the hard work and dedication that University of Maryland students have achieved this fall in adapting to ever-evolving conditions.
Faculty too have worked hard to provide the high-quality and innovative UMD education - online, blended and in-person - that you expect. In many cases, faculty have reinvented their courses for online and blended delivery, and no matter how creative or innovative, this has been a big adjustment for everyone. I have been pleased and grateful to hear how engaged and connected many students and faculty feel as they have discovered new ways of teaching and learning together.
On the other hand, we have recently heard from students advocating for a return to the pass/fail grading system that was instituted on an emergency basis last spring at students' request. Reasons for this request focus on the learning challenges, loneliness and isolation and emotional stress. While we understand the wish to once again see a relaxation of academic policies, there are a number of negative outcomes that result from adopting a pass/fail grading option. It is in the best long-term interest of our students to not make that change again. With a pass/fail system, such as the one we adopted last spring, transcripts do not accurately reflect students' mastery of coursework. Use of pass/fail grading, can diminish options for graduate school or post-graduate employment for some students and affect accreditation or micro-credentialing for others. Students taking courses that are part of a sequence are put at risk if they are not well-prepared for subsequent higher-level coursework, and similarly, students with low letter grades who are admitted to limited enrollment programs with a pass in lieu of a D may not be prepared for their major and may be set back later in both time and money invested.
Rather than adopt pass/fail grading again, the university is extending the deadline to withdraw from a course until 10:59 pm EST November 30. This extension of the withdrawal deadline, (previously November 9) gives students an additional option for a class in which they are facing substantial difficulties, but avoids much of the corollary risk of pass/fail grading. A student may withdraw from a maximum of 4 credits or one course by the deadline through Testudo, with a W recorded on the transcript, which does not affect GPA. Students should consult the FAQs before making the change. If you need to drop more than one course, please contact your academic advisor.
We are not able to extend the withdrawal deadline any later than November 30 without incurring a delay in recording semester grades and conferral of degrees. Last spring, such delays had deleterious effects on students, some of whom faced challenges with post graduation jobs or could not sit for licensure exams because degrees were not awarded in time.
If you are having difficulties with a class, or if you have questions about the academic and financial impact of withdrawing from a course, please consult with your instructor. If you have problems reaching your instructor, consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Director of Graduate Studies in the department through which the course is offered. If you need additional support for a course, you may find resources on our tutoring website. If you have completed most of the work for a course but run into difficulties at the end, you may, under certain circumstances, be able to arrange for an incomplete with the instructor. If you have questions about the new withdrawal deadline, consult the FAQs or contact your academic advisor.
Thank you again for your fortitude during these difficult times. I wish you all the best with the remainder of the semester.
Mary Ann Rankin
Senior Vice President and Provost
The Flagship Institution of the State of Maryland
College Park MD 20742-5035, USA
Phone: 301.405.1000