The Visual Arts building, seen in early March. Photo: Rame Abdulkader/The Fulcrum
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Faculties of social sciences, engineering implemented similar measures after semester moved online due to COVID-19

After the faculties of social sciences and engineering at the University of Ottawa both implemented similar measures, the faculty of arts will give undergraduate students the choice, after receiving their final course mark, of having ‘satisfactory’ or ‘not satisfactory’ appear on their transcript rather than an alphanumeric grade.

The decision comes after courses for the remainder of the semester moved online last week, the majority of campus shut down, and most students were forced to leave residence by this past Sunday due to the COVID-19 pandemic. U of O president Jacques Fremont has also said final exams will not be held in person.

Students in a number of faculties, including arts, launched petitions calling for the U of O’s administration to introduce optional pass/fail final course grading systems. Students highlighted inequalities created by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as housing insecurity and barriers to learning resources, that could hinder academic performance.

The university Senate ruled on Thursday to let each faculty make decisions about the conduct of their final assessments amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s still unclear how the faculties of education, health sciences, medicine, science, law, and the Telfer School of Management will approach final assessments.

A satisfactory or not satisfactory grade will have “no impact on your cumulative average for the previous session, either upward or downward,” dean Kevin Kee wrote in the email to students announcing the approach the faculty of arts is taking for undergraduate students’ finals.

Kee said undergraduate students in the faculty will receive an email in the first week of April with information on how to opt for the pass/fail grading system, with guidelines of what to consider when making the decision.

The faculty of arts says professors who teach courses with written assignments due before the end of the semester and before the exam period are “are strongly encouraged to accept late work without penalty for at least seven days after the scheduled submission date.”

When it comes to finals at the undergraduate level in the faculty of arts, students are not required to write final exams, which would include typical classroom exams, home exams, essays, and end-of-term assignments.

Instead, professors will submit the best of the following two final grades for each student: “the final grade which includes all the assessments (re-weighted to 100 per cent) other than the final exam,” or “the final grade which includes all assessments, including the final exam.”

However, Kee wrote that these measures do not apply to internships, honours thesis courses, directed research courses, and directed reading courses.

Kee added that students will not be able to receive a deferral for the April exam session and if they do not take the final exam, their mark will be calculated on the work submitted before the start of the exam period. 

“These measures are intended to reduce the pressure on you at this time, while also ensuring that you can complete your courses and progress through your degree,” wrote Kee. 

He added that the measures were also approved by the faculty’s vice-deans and chairs or directors of each department, school and institute. “These members of the faculty’s leadership team want to support you through these difficult times.”

As of Tuesday morning, there were 27 positive cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa but none confirmed in the U of O community.

The three most recent cases in the city are a woman in her 30s and a man in his 40s who were both in close contact with someone with COVID-19, as well as a man in his 50s who recently travelled to the United States. All are self-isolating. 

The city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches says “there could now be hundreds to even a thousand cases in the community now.” 

Etches urge everyone to remain home and only leave the house unless necessary, such as for a weekly grocery trip. Premier Doug Ford has declared a state of emergency and the province has closed all non-essential businesses

Across the province, there have been seven deaths from COVID-19 and at least 573 confirmed cases of the virus as of Tuesday morning, with eight labelled as resolved. 

There have been at least 1,646 confirmed cases of the virus and 24 deaths across Canada.

Globally, COVID-19 has infected more than 398,000 people and killed over 17,000 since emerging in China in December 2019. There have been over 103,000 recoveries from the virus.

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