You are here: American University Provost Communications February 24, 2021

American University Office of the Provost

MemorandumFebruary 24, 2021

AU Students
Peter Starr, Acting Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Spring 2021 Academic Policies and Wellness

Dear AU Students,

It’s hard to believe that it was almost a year ago when the world began to grapple with the realities of a global pandemic, and AU moved to a fully online state. As we head into the middle of the Spring semester, we’re eagerly anticipating returning to campus with many of you for the Fall 2021 semester (in case you missed it, check out President Burwell’s message to the community regarding Fall 2021 operating status here). Until that time, we wanted to update you on a few key Spring 2021 academic policies, provide additional information regarding Wellness Week, and remind you of the academic supports available to you this semester.

Pass/Fail Options
During the Fall 2020 semester, AU instituted a partial P/F policy, allowing students to change their grade types in some courses after they learned their final grades. We created this “after final grades” option during Fall 2020 after hearing from many students that, while they appreciated the ability to elect a P/F grade during the Spring 2020 semester, they wanted to make these decisions with full information about their status in a course—that is, after knowing their final grade for a course.

Similar to the Fall 2020 semester, a P/F option, with the “after final grades” option, will be available for the Spring 2021 semester (whether or not you exercised this option during Fall 2020). Again, there will be a set window after the close of the semester during which you can elect this grade type change.

For undergraduate students, there is an important (and we suspect, very welcome) change for the Spring 2021 semester.  During the Spring 2021 semester, most undergraduate students may exercise the option for pass/fail grades in any two courses. Both of these two courses may be major/minor/Core/Gen Ed courses (or elective courses). This differs from the Fall 2020 semester, when students could elect, of their two courses, only one major, minor, or AU Core/Gen Ed course for P/F status. This change only applies to the Spring 2021 semester. This change to allow the P/F option to apply to any two courses was the direct result of student and academic advisor feedback regarding the need for additional flexibility.

As during the Fall 2020 semester, most graduate students can select one course P/F for the Spring 2021 semester (or one course across Term 1 and Term 2).  Please remember that some graduate level courses require a grade higher than a C in order to pass.

Some students may have unique circumstances that will impact their ability to move a course to P/F. For example, this option is not available to students at the Washington College of Law or in the International or Master’s Accelerator Program. 

Please also remember that, if you have personal or medical circumstances that are impacting your academic progress, you can work with your advisor and the Office of the Dean of Students to review academic options.

Undergraduates: Course Repetition and Grade Replacement
We also want to remind you of a separate academic policy that provides additional flexibility for undergraduate students. The Course Repetition and Grade Replacement Policy allows undergraduate students to retake any two AU courses (over the course of their time at AU) in which they have earned a C- or lower for a grade replacement at any point during their undergraduate career at AU. For complete regulation details, please refer to Regulation 4.4 of the Undergraduate Academic Rules and Regulations.  This change is a permanent change, and not limited to pandemic conditions.

A great question we’ve heard: How do the P/F options and the Course Repetition and Grade Replacement Policy work together? The answer: a student may use the Course Repetition and Grade Replacement option at any point during their time at AU (for a total of 2 courses) and may also have utilized the P/F policy during Fall 2020 and/or choose to utilize the Spring 2021 P/F option for any two courses. For example, a student could:

  1. Elect 2 P/F courses during Fall 2020 and
  2. Elect 2 P/F courses during Spring 2021 and
  3. Elect, under the Course Repetition and Grade Replacement Policy, to repeat two courses and replace the grade during their time at AU.

If you’d like to utilize the Course Repetition and Grade Replacement option, please contact your academic advisor.

Wellness Week: March 7–13, 2021
As we approach Wellness Week (for students on the traditional, semester-based schedule), we recognize Spring Break has often been a precious time that students, faculty, and staff look forward to as a moment to catch up on work and find a few quiet moments of respite. Though we have had to make the decision to convert Spring Break into a Wellness Week to limit potential community spread and protect public health and safety, we hope that you will make time during this week to care for yourself. 

Classes will still meet synchronously or asynchronously, but the week will be free of written assignments, required reading, quizzes, and exams. We have also urged our faculty to be mindful not to load up on assignments directly before or after Wellness Week. Should you have questions about how Wellness Week will be observed in your classes, please reach out to your professors for further details.

We encourage you to use this time free of homework and projects to recharge and focus on your personal wellness. Think about how the week can work for you, and the practices or strategies you can use to set a foundation for your own academic wellness. Try to take time for more sleep, find time to connect with friends and family in safe ways, engage in hobbies that bring you joy, unplug from social media or your phone, and consider what you need for your well-being and success as we head into the last half of the semester. Use this week to recharge and refocus.

Remember, the AU community is here to support you, as well. Our offices remain open remotely to assist you with your wellness this week, as always.

Academic Success and Support
Finally, remember that there are many people ready to support your academic wellness; whether it’s

  • having a mid-semester check in with Academic Coaching to provide strategies for task management, habit building, test prep, and more. Whether attending a virtual meeting or checking out the academic resource library, services are open to both undergraduate and graduate students.
  • meeting with consultants in the Writing Center to organize, sharpen, and refine a paper or writing project at the undergraduate and graduate level.
  • working on challenging quantitative concepts with tutors specializing in Quantitative Support for undergraduate and graduate students, or
  • seeking one-on-one tutoring for specific undergraduate courses with peer tutors in the Tutoring Lab.

Academic support appointments are all virtual and can be scheduled online using normal systems. You can make an appointment with Tutoring Lab, Writing Center, and Quantitative Support here: and an appointment with Academic Coaching here:

If you have a disability-related accommodation, or want to register for accommodations for the first time, the Disability Support Team can answer any questions or provide assistance with implementing accommodations.

We hope you are well and that your Spring semester is off to a strong start!

Peter Starr
Acting Provost and Chief Academic Officer

Monica C. Jackson
Interim Deputy Provost and Dean of Faculty

Wendy Boland
Dean of Graduate Studies

Jessica Waters
Dean of Undergraduate Education and Vice Provost for Academic Student Services