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U. grants students unlimited PDFs for spring term, “encourages” faculty to consider “PDF-only option”

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Harsimran Makkad / The Daily Princetonian

All undergraduate students will be allotted unlimited P/D/Fs for the 2020 spring semester, according to an email sent to the campus community by Dean of the College Jill Dolan.

“In a typical semester, students can only elect to P/D/F one course,” Dolan wrote in the email. “For this semester, we’ve waived that restriction. Students may choose the P/D/F grading option for any course that offers the option.”


Though students will be permitted to P/D/F more than one class this semester, it is unclear whether classes currently designated  non-P/D/F (npdf), such as writing seminars, foreign languages, and many other courses, will be required by the University administration to include the P/D/F option. 

“For the current term, we’ve urged faculty to change the grading basis for their courses to include the P/D/F option,” Dolan stated. 

The email also stated that the University has “encouraged faculty to considering changing to the P/D/F-only grading option for your courses in-progress.”

The P/D/Fs will not count towards students’ four total P/D/Fs for their four years of study, and will likely be able to satisfy prerequisite courses as well as departmental distribution requirements for this semester only. However, this second condition has not been officially mandated by the administration. 

“Given the extraordinary nature of this crisis, for the spring semester of 2020 only, we expect departments to accept the P/D/F for departmental courses and prerequisites,” Dolan wrote.

Students will be permitted to elect P/D/F beginning on April 6, the start of the ninth week of classes, and ending on May 1, the last day of classes before spring Reading Period. Previously, undergraduate selection of P/D/F option was slated to begin on March 23 and end on April 10.


Confirming the language in Dolan’s email, one faculty member stated that professors do “have the authority to convert their class into mandatory P/D/F grading for all students,” but are not required to do so.

Dolan’s email also addressed other aspects of University academic life, such as senior thesis deadlines, junior independent work, and A.B. sophomore concentration declaration.

Departments have been permitted to move senior thesis deadlines as close as possible to the May 4 final University deadline. Similarly, the University-wide deadline for junior independent work has been extended to May 15.

A.B. sophomore students, whose concentration declaration period begins on April 2, will be advised by all department websites about how to meet this deadline remotely. According to Dolan’s email, “more detailed instructions” will be sent soon.

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Dolan also added that there are no current plans to change Dean’s Date, which is scheduled for May 12.

These changes follow significant campus debate over the P/D/F policy, with students advocating for either a “Universal P/D/F” system or an “Optional P/D/F” one. Two student-made petitions were published on, with over 600 signatures each as of 3 p.m. on March 19.

The Universal P/D/F petition, created by Anna McGee ’22, calls upon the University to mandate that all spring courses be graded on a P/D/F-only scale in order to ensure “an equitable education.” The petition points out that inequities in internet access, time zones, living conditions, and mental health may create an uneven playing field for students, and disproportionately affect “low-income, rural, international, ill, and other-abled students.”

McGee is a chief copy editor for The Daily Princetonian. 

The Optional P/D/F petition, started by Vincent Pagano ’22, instead asks that students be granted the option to elect P/D/F grading.

“We believe a mandatory P/D/F policy is unfair to students who would still like to pursue a letter grade,” wrote Pagano. “Instead, a better policy would allow students to take classes on the scale (P/D/F or A-F) that they think is best for them given their unique circumstances.”

This story is breaking and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Due to a conflict of interest established via the publication of an editorial supporting universal P/D/F last week, no members of the editorial board contributed to reporting or editing this article, including the editor-in-chief and managing editors of The Daily Princetonian.