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This page describes information related to COVID-19 and the Harvard Computer Science undergraduate program. For Harvard University information about COVID-19 see https://www.harvard.edu/coronavirus; For Harvard College, see https://dso.college.harvard.edu/coronavirus.

This page last updated: Monday May 11.

CS Feedback

This is a form for anonymous feedback, for your ideas for CS to consider, or to let us know how you’re doing. CS Feedback. Responses to your questions and feedback are below.

Zoom office hours

Office hours for CS faculty will be held online through Zoom. See this page for the list of office hours and Zoom links.

Undergraduate Grading in Spring 2020

The College has opted for universal Emergency Sat/Emergency Unsat grading: all undergraduates in Spring 2020 courses will receive a grade of either Emergency Sat (SEM) or Emergency Unsat (UEM). The College has additional information on their FAQ.

SEM courses will fulfill CS concentration and CS secondary requirements. (Normally courses taken for CS concentration or CS secondary credit must be letter-graded, except that CS50 may be taken SAT/UNSAT).

Concentration GPA and English Honors

Background: There are two types of honors for undergraduates: Latin honors (summa, magna, cum laude) are determined by the College and English honors (highest honors, high honors, honors) are determined by concentrations. See this page for more. The College Coronavirus FAQ has information about how Latin honors are affected by SEM grades. It is up to each concentration to determine how SEM grades will affect English honors.

Harvard CS will strive to ensure that SEM/UEM grading in Spring 2020 does not adversely affect students’ eligibility for English honors. Recall that English honors involve an objective GPA cutoff and a vote based on a holistic view of the student’s academic and scientific achievements. SEM/UEM grading will change our treatment of GPA.


  1. If a student’s concentration GPA (calculated without Spring 2020 courses) is above the threshold, then the student will be eligible for honors.
  2. If the student’s concentration GPA is close to the threshold (i.e., would be above the threshold if the student had received A’s in Spring 2020 concentration courses), then we will consider other criteria, including qualitative feedback from Spring 2020 courses.
AB/SM Grading in Spring 2020

SEM/UEM graded courses from Spring 2020 can be used to satisfy requirements of a Computer Science SM. Note also that appropriate MIT courses graded P/F in Spring 2020 will be able to count towards SM requirements.

Feedback Responses

Added May 11

Feedback: CS should offer best-practices for facilitating online office hours for its courses.
Response: If the fall semester is on-line, we absolutely plan to continue to share best-practices and to work with the Office of Undergraduate Education on what works best for online learning. Feel free to reach out to us (especially via Piazza) to let us know what you think works and doesn’t work for course office hours.

Feedback: I’m worried about how Sat/Unsat will affect my GPA and potential honors
Response: It won’t have a negative effect on your GPA. If your GPA is borderline to an honors cut-off, we will seek qualitative feedback from your instructor. In spring 2020, this is a small number of students. For more info on how Harvard CS is striving to ensure that SEM/UEM grading in Spring 2020 does not adversely affect students’ eligibility for English honors, see above.

Question: I had a situation at home that meant I did not do my best learning this term. Will faculty take this into account—for example, if I took CS 20 this term, will CS 121 spend a week going over important background?
Response: We do not have a formal plan for this. We are looking into ways to improve faculty-student contact and teaching for the fall term, but we also suggest, as we always do, that students review practice problems/take homework zeros and do some self-study if you’re able to do so. https://cs121.boazbarak.org/

Question: How has the hiring freeze affected the CS faculty searches that were in place?
Response: At this point (May 7, 2020), we can tell you that we were able to move forward with some of our searches to make offers, though not as many offers as we would have if the school’s financial situation was good. We have several offers outstanding right now.

Feedback: Online learning is not as good as being in person. Please don’t let that happen!
Response: This is decision that will be made at a higher level than the CS department. If we do go online in the fall, we do have time to plan courses designed for online learning, instead of converting in-person courses to online mid-semester.

Question: When will CS classes for fall 2020 be finalized? This will be very important for me to decide whether to enroll next semester or not.
Response: Our final decisions will rely on the College’s final decision about how the Fall Semester will look. We’re currently rearranging the curriculum a bit to ensure more student–faculty contact. We know for absolute sure that the fall annual courses (50, 61, 121, 182) will be offered in fall.


If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to help and support you however we can.