Petition calls for further academic accommodations in response to COVID-19

University says “blanket policy” of pass/fail doesn’t help every student

Image by: Maia McCann
The petition had been signed by 770 students at the time of publication.

As students study through another semester of remote learning, a petition is calling Principal Patrick Deane and Provost Mark Green to take additional measures of academic accommodations. 

The petition states that Queen’s implemented the measure of providing a pass/fail grading option to Winter 2020 and Spring 2020 courses, but has not presented this modified grading structure for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms.  

The petition had been signed by 770 students at the time of publication.

The petition pointed to the measures taken by other universities accommodating academic performance during the pandemic including Carleton, Concordia, Dalhousie, Laurentian, McGill, University of Toronto, University of Manitoba, and University of Ottawa. 

“These universities recognize that grades recorded during this term and next are not an accurate reflection of the student’s comprehension of the course materials,” the petition stated.

“This grading option is especially important for students who passed their courses but who did not achieve a grade they would have in normal circumstances, or for those who did not pass”.

The petition detailed additional stressors facing students during the pandemic including academic performance, employment, personal health, family crises, and housing. 

Regarding the accommodations outlined in the petition, the University stated its commitment to ensuring student success despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and its goal of compassionate policy.

“Responding to the health crisis that COVID-19 represents is an unprecedented situation for all of us. Everyone continues to do their best, and Queen’s is committed to helping our students triumph through difficult times,” the University wrote in a statement to The Journal.

The University said that a request for a pass/fail course arises from the very real challenges students face in adapting to remote learning, but that a blanket policy doesn’t respond effectively to the individual experiences and challenges of each student. 

According to the University, efforts have been made to find fair, flexible, and equitable solutions for the largest number of students without sacrificing the needs of others in difficult situations, while also allowing for the recognition of academic grades required by some disciplines.

The University also cited efforts to work with student governments and academic leadership teams to design and implement proactive strategies for instructors and students, through the Academic Operations Group (AOG) and the Academic Operations Working Group (AOWG). 

These initiatives include delayed course drop dates without financial penalties, increased supports and resources for students and instructors, the use of alternative assessment tools where possible, and increased technical supports for proctored exams. 

The University encouraged instructors to provide flexibility within faculties presenting students with difficulty, stating the design of the appeal processes in faculties and schools takes into account individual circumstances students face—including the ability of students with extenuating circumstances to request an alternate form of final grades.  

Students in need of support should consult Student Affairs for details on how to access the various available services remotely and contact their advisors in Faculty and School offices.

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accomodation, Covid-19

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