Given the extraordinary conditions we are facing for the spring 2020 semester, the Government Department has decided to relax the usual limits on using pass/fail courses for credit.
Ordinarily, concentrators are allowed to take a single requirement—one Government elective—pass/fail toward degree requirements, and secondary-field students are not allowed to use any pass/fail courses toward their requirements.
However, in light of recent events, both concentrators and secondary-field students in Government will be allowed to count two (2) pass/fail courses taken during the spring 2020 semester toward degree requirements. For concentrators, this is in addition to the single pass/fail Government elective that they are already allowed to take, and it can be used toward any of the concentration requirements.
It should be noted that this policy outlines the maximum number of pass/fail courses that students can take toward Government requirements. Taking courses for letter grades remains the default option, and students should carefully consider the tradeoffs before switching multiple courses to pass/fail grading status. In addition, the overall rules for graduating from Harvard College have not been changed: Students will still need to take at least 84 credits (or 21 out of 32 courses) for letter grades to graduate, and 96 credits (or 24 out of 32 courses) to be eligible to graduate with honors.
Q&A about the new policy
Q: Which of the Government concentration requirements can I take pass/fail?
A: Any of the requirements—including the sophomore tutorial (Gov 97), seminar (Gov 94), methods (Gov 50), subfield, and elective requirements—can be met under the policy above.
Q: Does this include a Statistics Department course being used for the Government methods requirement?
A: Yes, you can take Stat 104 or Stat 111 P/F this semester and use it toward the methods requirement.
Q: Can I take courses in future semesters pass/fail for concentration credit?
A: Only courses taken during the spring 2020 semester fall under this new policy.
Q: Wasn’t the deadline to switch courses to pass/fail grading status several weeks ago?
A: In light of the campus shut-down, Harvard is allowing students to change the grading status of their courses until April 13. The deadline was pushed back more than a month so students can assess how this transition online has affected their studies before they make a decision.
Q: If I am pursuing a pre-med or pre-law curriculum, should I take my courses pass/fail?
A: You should consult your pre-med or pre-law advisers. They are currently consulting with medical and law schools to find out how they will treat the extraordinary circumstances we are facing this semester.
Q: Does this policy apply to first-year preconcentrators?
A: Yes, first-year students who later declare Government as their concentration (or secondary field) will have their spring 2020 pass/fail courses counted for credit just as current concentrators (or secondary-field students) do.