Student petition asks TRU for grading flexibility during COVID-19 pandemic - InfoNews

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Student petition asks TRU for grading flexibility during COVID-19 pandemic

Thompson Rivers University
April 01, 2020 - 10:26 AM

For many post-secondary students across Canada, alternate grading options have been offered up to help reduce stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’s not the case at a Kamloops’s Thompson Rivers University, and one student is calling for change.

Serena Girard started a petition yesterday, March 31, calling on Thompson Rivers University president Brett Fairbairn to introduce alternate grading options for students currently enrolled.

“I’ve really been struggling personally myself, that's where this whole thing started. I suffer from depression, anxiety and ADHD, so the switch to online schooling has been quite difficult for me,” Girard says. “On top of that, the isolation doesn't really help my depression and the anxiety about this global pandemic.”

Girard believes that students who are worried about their grades will suffer from a weakened immune system as a result of stress.

For the students who feel they can handle their workload, she suggests continuing the grading process as normal.

For those who may be under stress or difficult circumstances, she recommends a pass or fail option, which would allow students to receive a passing grade without a numerical grade, therefore not affecting their grade point average or GPA.

Girard says Fairbairn denied her suggestion of the pass or fail option.

Fairbairn released a statement on the Thompson Rivers University website about alternative grading methods. Currently, a six-week deferral on final grades is available, so students can apply for extra time to finish their course work. In the release, he notes that the university is not considering the pass or fail option, except for Faculty of Law students. Additionally, students who receive a D or F grade can withdraw from their course after receiving their grade, and their grade from this semester will not be recorded, thus not affecting their GPA.

Girard says there needs to be adjustments done on the withdraw option so students don't lose marks on work they did prior to the pandemic. She says the six-week deferral may also not be adequate for students who may face overlapping commitments.

“I know that right now the withdrawal and deferral options are available but that’s kind of encouraging students to throw away all of their hard work,” Girard says. “For some a deferral may not be possible because of taking summer courses or other circumstances, so I think a pass/fail option would help cover that gap.”

Girard says she’s not the only one who is facing challenges. She has spoken with other students and some faculty members who she says agree with her suggestions.

“Everyone I’ve been speaking to does agree. Whether that’s other students who are in a similar boat because of mental health, whether it’s single parent with a child who doesn't have childcare, or potentially an international student who cant go home or is home and doesn't have the resources to complete the online school work,” Girard says.

The petition went online last night, and within 18 hours has more than 500 signatures.

Universities across the country are offering similar options.

In Kelowna, the Faculty of Applied Science and the School of Engineering at University of British Columbia Okanagan is allowing students the pass or fail option, as well as a late withdrawal. The university as a whole is currently looking into further expanding this initiative, although they note it is difficult for courses that rely on the grade outcomes for accrediting bodies and for students who wish to pursue further studies, specifically in the medical field.

According to this article, the University of Victoria, Ryerson University, York University, the University of Calgary, Queen’s University and McGill University are among some of the many that are offering alternate grading options.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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