Arts & Science to introduce pass/fail course option

The Personal Interest Credit will allow Arts and Science students to take 6.0 credits with pass/fail grading

Stauffer Library on campus.
Stauffer Library on campus.
Journal File Photo

Students in the Faculty of Arts and Science will have the option to take pass/fail courses this coming September.

The new option, called the Personal Interest Credit, was approved by the Arts and Science Faculty Board last Friday. It will allow Arts and Science students to choose up to 6.0 units — one full-year course or two half-year courses — of electives to receive a pass/fail grade.

The policy, the first of its kind at Queen’s, is intended to reduce the risk of taking courses outside a student’s program of study and promote interdisciplinary studies. Pass/fail courses will have no effect on a student’s GPA.

Any course offered by the Faculty of Arts and Science is eligible for pass/fail designation, although it cannot be a requirement for a student’s degree plan. Students will have the option to designate a course as pass/fail before the deadline to drop a course without academic penalty each term. 

In PIC courses, a grade of Pass (P) is given when a student earns higher than a D-. Otherwise, the student receives a grade of Fail (F). Only one pass/fail course may be taken each term.

Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS) President Brandon Jamieson and Vice President Andrew DiCapua campaigned last year on the promise to introduce pass/fail courses in Arts and Science. Since they began their term, ASUS representatives have conducted rounds of consultations with Queen’s staff and faculty to introduce pass/fail courses.

DiCapua said the policy only affects students in the Faculty of Arts and Science at the moment, but could one day extend to other faculties. The initial project was a massive undertaking, as Arts and Science students make up 60 per cent of undergraduate students.

“We have 28 departments [in the Faculty of Arts and Science], and if you can figure out all the intricacies of switching between those departments, going beyond that is not too much more difficult,” Dicapua said.

He added that courses chosen as pass/fail electives cannot be a core course, an optional course or a prerequisite course for a student’s degree plan.

“If you’re in Economics, and you have [to] take a 200-level course as an optional or core class, that doesn’t qualify as a pass/fail course.”

Jamieson told The Journal that the PIC has been in the works for over eight months now. He said student leaders from ASUS have spearheaded consultations with various members of the Queen’s administration, including working groups, undergraduate chairs and departments.

“This project has been entirely, from its inception, driven by students and I think that is, at least in a university [setting], it’s very unconventional. Not many students have these opportunities to, quite literally, build this policy every step of the way,” Jamieson said.

Jamieson said he and DiCapua didn’t expect to gain as much traction as they did when they began building the foundation for a pass/fail policy.

“We went in asking for a lot, and we came out with exactly how much we had gone in wanting,” he said.

He hopes students use the PIC as an opportunity to explore new interests.

“Without concern or second thought, students will be able to take courses purely out of passion or interest ... not only are we going to be able to live up to what Queen’s stands for as a balanced institution, [but] students will be able to have a transformative academic experience.”


March 15, 2016

The last name of the ASUS vice president is DiCapua, not Dicapua.

The Journal regrets the error.

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