Following a petition urging the U of M to adopt more flexible course assessment methods because of academic changes made to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the university announced that students will now be given the choice whether to include individual final grades in their GPA.
The petition, started by U of M student Andrew Sadik, urged the university to follow the actions of the University of Calgary and implement the option of a pass/fail system for any courses.
In the four days the petition was online prior to the university’s announcement, it gathered more than 6,000 signatures.
“We did not get exactly what the petition requested, but it’s definitely helpful,” wrote Sadik in a recent update.
U of M vice-provost students Laurie Schnarr said in an email to students March 26, “For any course completed at the University of Manitoba in winter term 2020, you can choose whether or not to include a grade received in your GPA calculation.”
“This option will apply to all winter term 2020 courses or spanned courses that you completed over the fall 2019-winter 2020 terms for which a standard letter grade is received (A+ to F).”
Schnarr also said that although these grades would not be included in students’ GPAs for the purpose of program progression or overall GPA requirements, they will still appear on transcripts and will be used to satisfy pre-requisites for entry into other courses and to satisfy other program requirements.
Grades that students choose not to include in their GPA will be flagged with a notation on their transcripts indicating the grade was excluded due to the COVID-19 situation.
Students will have seven days after receiving final grades to give the university their decisions.
“This has been something that UMSU is in support of, [something] we’ve been advocating behind the scenes on ,” said UMSU vice-president advocacy Sarah Bonner-Proulx.
Individual faculties are considering changing their grading systems because of the academic changes rather than adhering completely to a university-wide decision.
Bonner-Proulx reported in a recent UMSU meeting that the faculty of law has implemented this pass/fail model on its own.
Canadian Federation of Students Manitoba chairperson Brenden Gali says the organization is also in support of this change for all Manitoban institutions and believes the petition was the driving force behind the university’s decision.
“Anything that garners a number like over 6,000 supporters, administrations take notice,” said Gali.
“They feel that pressure, so I think the actions taken by the University of Manitoba administration has a direct link to this petition and actions started by students.”
“COVID-19 is affecting many people, different communities of the country,” he added.
“We represent students, so there’s just a lot of things that we hope we can see our governments doing to support students specifically.”
“A lot of our calls to action included the provincial government following the steps of the federal government and deferring student loan repayments until the fall 2020, extending appeal options for students, taking care of international students so that they have the rights to work and study here,” he said.
Gali said he believes this petition “is just one step” in the direction of getting provincial administrations and governments to take better care of students.
For him, Manitoba’s response to COVID-19 is “actually kind of disappointing.”
“We’re going to need more services, we’re going to need more staff at universities to support students for their appeals for services like health care,” said Gali.
Gali added that with “this one per cent reduction in government grants to universities, and post COVID-19, I think we’re going to see students suffer, and it’s a huge disappointment.”