Only the instructor of the course has the responsibility and authority to judge the quality of a student’s work and assess the appropriate grade. No one can overrule instructors and require them to go against their judgment of the work. Grading must not be arbitrary or capricious or influenced by illegal discriminatory considerations. To avoid the influencing of grades by improper consideration or student pressure, a grade, once given, may only be changed if an error in the original grade is claimed by the instructor. The instructor should be willing to review the basis of an assigned grade with an inquiring student and correct the grade if an error is found. The evaluation of the quality of the student’s work is solely up to the instructor, but the grade must not contain a punitive element for an offense against academic integrity if the student has been found innocent of this offense by a duly constituted board.
The official university grading system is composed of letter grades with pluses and minuses. Passing grades range from A+ to D–; F is failing. INC denotes a grade of incomplete, and R is the grade given at the end of the first semester of a yearlong course. The grades of INC and R do not have quality-point equivalents attached. These are the quality-point equivalents:
Grade point average is calculated by multiplying the credit hour and quality point equivalent for each course and then dividing by the total number of credits taken. The cumulative average is the sum of the products of all the grades at Cornell divided by the total number of credits taken.
The purpose of the Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory (S-U) system is to encourage students to venture into courses outside their main areas of familiarity without great risk to academic record. The border between S and U is not the same, however, as that between pass and fail in the letter-grade system. In the S-U system, S indicates performance that would be graded C- or higher, and U indicates performance that would be graded below a C-. Students earn credit toward the fulfillment of graduation requirements for course grades of S, but not for course grades of U. Grades of S or U are not assigned numerical value and thus are not averaged in with other grades in computing grade point averages.
The various schools and colleges differ in the restrictions they place on the election of S-U grading over letter grading. However, in those courses where college rules and course procedures allow it, the election is a student option that must be exercised within the first seven weeks of the beginning of the term. Students may not defer the decision in the hope of first seeing the letter grade they are likely to earn.
The grade of incomplete is appropriate only when two basic conditions are met:
1. the student has substantial equity at a passing level in the course with respect to work completed; and
2. the student has been prevented by circumstances beyond the student’s control, such as illness or family emergency, from completing all of the course requirements on time.
An incomplete may not be given merely because a student fails to complete all course requirements on time. Such a practice would be open to abuse; by deferring completion of some major course requirement, a student could gain advantage over his or her classmates by obtaining additional time to do a superior job. This is not an option that may be elected at the student’s own discretion.
While it is the student’s responsibility to initiate a request for a grade of incomplete, reasons for requesting one must be acceptable to the instructor, who establishes specific make-up requirements.
The consequences of failure to complete all course work within the time permitted will depend upon the policy of the student’s college. Some colleges convert the incomplete to a grade of F; others let the incomplete stand on the student’s transcript. In either case, the option to make up the work is lost. It is the responsibility of the student to see that all incompletes are made up within the deadline and that the grade change has been properly recorded with the student’s college registrar. As a matter of equity, grades must not be changed after the end of a semester because a student may have subsequently done additional work.
Changes in Grades
Each semester’s work is an entity and grades are to be assigned for work completed during the normal period of the semester. Subsequent changes in a grade may be made only in the event that the instructor made an error in assigning the original grade. As a matter of equity, grades must not be changed after the end of a semester because a student may have subsequently done additional work.
At the end of each term, a student may view his or her grades, as the instructor submits them, in Student Center. A student will also see a transcript of all courses taken at the University, regardless of academic program.
The Office of the University Registrar provides official grade transcripts bearing the Cornell University seal and the signature of the University Registrar for graduate and professional school applications, employers, and scholarships.
Official transcripts may be requested through Student Center. Only the student may request their official transcript. An official transcript can be sent electronically as a secure, certified pdf or in a sealed envelope directly from the Office of the University Registrar. There is no fee for official transcripts except for express mail services. A transcript request will not be processed if the student has a hold that prevents the release of the transcript. Learn more about transcripts.