University advises considering future goals before pursuing academic accommodations

Students encouraged to retain letter grades ahead of May 20 pass/fail deadline

The University announced on March 25 it would give students the option to drop a course or declare the credit as pass/fail.
Journal File Photo

As students pursue special COVID-19 academic accommodations, the University is recommending they consider the possible impacts on future studies.

The University announced on March 25 it would give students the option to drop a course or declare the credit as pass/fail to accommodate for the unexpected changes to course delivery caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our options for students were designed, on the one hand, to recognize the performance of students on the essential academic requirements of the course,” John Pierce, vice-provost (Teaching and Learning), wrote in a statement to The Journal. “[B]ut, on the other, to [assist] students significantly disadvantaged by the COVID-19 interruption.”

The pass/fail option was designed to allow students to complete a course without suffering from a lower grade than expected. The University developed the late drop option as a solution for students who could not complete coursework because of extenuating circumstances created by the pandemic. 

For students who pursue one of these accommodations, the Senate Committee on Academic Procedures (SCAP) has approved an explanatory note to advise that the winter term was disrupted by COVID-19. The text will be posted on the University Registrar website and an abbreviated message and web link will be printed on future transcripts.

The University retained the letter grade option to ensure there would be a clear basis for progression in academic plans, for applications to professional and graduate schools, and other academic purposes.

“We could not freeze grades at the point of the COVID-19 interruption, since very few courses had completed enough work so that the basic academic requirements were met,” Pierce wrote.

While many instructors reduced the course workload during the transition to remote learning, they aimed to retain enough assignments to ensure students acquired the necessary knowledge and skills to be capable of succeeding in subsequent courses next year. This balance was important to ensure the “integrity” of courses and degrees at the University remained intact, according to Pierce.

While these accommodations were welcomed by many across campus, others were concerned about the possible negative impact pursuing either of these options could have on their future studies.

When The Journal inquired about how Queen’s admissions will treat transcripts with pass/fail credits from potential transfer students or graduate students applying to the University, Pierce said they understand all high school and post-secondary students have been affected by this situation and will take the unique negative impacts of the term into consideration. 

“We encourage students to attempt to earn numeric or [letter] grades, but we understand that may not be possible,” Pierce wrote. “Each faculty and school has agreed to accept ‘pass’ grades; however, students must still meet the GPA and credit requirements of their offer.”

Regardless of their individual situations, students are advised to speak to an academic advisor in their faculty to discuss which option may be best for them considering their circumstances and future goals.

Undergraduate students are able to select a pass/fail option or drop winter term 2020 and fall-winter 2019-20 classes through SOLUS until May 20. Students will be able to see their final grade before requesting a letter grade be changed to a pass.

Individual faculties are responsible for the final approval and administration of all pass/fail grading requests.

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