March 25, 2020
Dean of the Graduate School Andrew G. Campbell and Dean of the College Rashid Zia
Tags Undergraduates Grad and Medical Students Faculty and Staff

To Brown Community: Temporary Changes to Brown’s Academic Policies for Spring 2020


Dear Students, Staff and Faculty,

Over the past two weeks, we have heard from many of you with suggestions for supporting students and instructors through this difficult and unprecedented moment. We have been inspired by instructors who have already transformed their courses into remote learning communities, and moved by students helping teach their instructors and peers about resources that will enable us to remain connected as a teaching and learning community in the days ahead.

After extensive discussion, we are writing to share a comprehensive set of Temporary Academic Policies for the College and Graduate School to help support our transition to remote teaching and learning, which begins with the resumption of the spring semester on March 30. These policies have been developed in consultation with students, staff, faculty and administrators, and we are thankful to all who contributed their ideas and time to this important effort. We are especially grateful to the Faculty Executive Committee as well as those members of the College Curriculum Council, Graduate Council, and Undergraduate Council of Students, who spent hours reviewing these policies and providing their feedback over the past few days.

We strongly encourage all instructors and students to carefully review the Temporary Academic Policies for Spring 2020 now posted on the Teaching & Learning section of Brown’s COVID-19 website. The policies include detailed information regarding:

  • guidance to prioritize asynchronous instruction that enables student access at any time;
  • requirements to hold any synchronous class meetings during scheduled class times and to record synchronous sessions for equity and accessibility;
  • guidance on final examinations and alternative assessments;
  • guidelines for holding remote dissertation and thesis defenses;
  • maintenance of important deadlines for degree clearance and graduation;
  • opportunities for both instructor and student changes to grade options; and
  • postponement of fall pre-registration and concentration declaration deadlines

These policies are intended to honor both the spirit and letter of Brown’s distinctive approach to higher education. Wherever possible, our goal continues to be to provide both students and instructors with the flexibility and structure to make informed choices, because we have confidence in your ability to work together to support shared learning. Our guiding principles remain three-fold: (1) to empower instructors to make adjustments to course plans to help students meet their course's key learning goals; (2) to reaffirm and support Brown’s commitment to full inclusion for all students, especially considering the varying access to technology and experience with remote learning among students and instructors; and (3) to promote patience and generosity during this unprecedented moment, which has become a learning opportunity for all learners and teachers.

For instructors, these policies mean you will have an opportunity to revise your course plans, petition to shift to mandatory S/NC grading in exceptional circumstances, and reconsider your final examinations. We also ask that you share updated syllabi by April 3, record online class meetings, and continue to hold remote office hours. For students, this means that you will be able to reconsider your course grade options in mid-April, postpone concentration declaration, and pre-register in June – and that we will support you in finishing your coursework, dissertations and theses on time this semester. Finally, as a reminder to all, please note that these temporary policies are supplemental to all other applicable University policies, including the Academic Code and Code of Student Conduct that remain in effect during this period of remote learning.

We thank the entire Brown community for your patience as we have developed these policies. As remote instruction begins, we encourage you to take advantage of the many Teaching and Learning Resources available to both students and instructors. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to us directly at [email protected] and [email protected].

We and our colleagues across the University are here to support you as we all embark on this new experience of fully remote education at Brown.


Andrew G. Campbell, Dean of the Graduate School
Rashid Zia, Dean of the College