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Graphic of a student waiting for their grades
Image: Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum.
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Students did not receive notification about deadline readjustment

Many students at the University of Ottawa are still waiting for their final 2020 fall semester grades after administration pushed the release date from late January to Feb. 1. 

The only indication of the date change is found on the university’s “Important academic dates and deadlines” website. Students were not directly informed of  the decision — resulting in many surprises and a surplus of problems. 

Final marks from the fall semester were originally scheduled to be released to students on Jan. 19 and students had until Jan. 22 to decide if they wanted to use the new pass or fail option for one course. 

However, according to Isabelle Mallioux-Pulkinghorn, the U of O’s manager of media relations, the implementation of the pass or fail option (S/NS) resulted in the rescheduling of the final grade release date. 

“At the request of our students, the University agreed to allow the implementation of the qualitative grades (the S/NS), but in order to do so, some key dates had to be adjusted,” she said in an email statement. 

“Unfortunately, this will take some time,” added Mailloux-Pulkinghorn.

The postponement can have a large impact on students attempting to apply for masters programs and graduate studies, as well as those who have scholarships dependent upon grades and OSAP funding. It also limited some students from making the best decision on which course to use their single S/NS option for as they couldn’t see their marks beforehand. 

Bella Runza, a fourth-year international development and globalization student, first discovered the release date had been pushed back when she returned to start the winter semester and still did not have grades for two classes.

“After reaching out to a few of my friends, it was very clear I was not the only one who was still missing final mark submissions and concluded that the deadline for those to be posted must have been pushed back even though there was no clear communication to the students,” said Runza in an email. 

Although Runza was eventually able to get her final marks from her professors, she said she felt “sympathy” for others who did not receive their grades back yet after the university sent out an email about S/NS guidelines. 

“How are you supposed to know which class to take the [S/NS] for if you do not have all the marks back?” pointed out Runza. Students were given a three day window (Jan 20-22) to use the [S/NS] option, which now falls before the final mark release date.

Interested in applying for graduate school, Runza was already having issues creating connections with professors she might have otherwise used as references in her applications. 

“Not having a clear idea of where my marks were at scared me away from getting applications in for the fall,” she said. 

Michaela Cirtwill, a third-year history major, is another student still waiting for all her final grades to be posted. The delay has affected both her graduate school applications and scholarship.

“If I had the mark earlier, I could have talked to an advisor to make a decision to [choose] SAT [satisfactory] the course to obtain the merit scholarship or [discuss] if it would be less preferable for grad admissions,” she said in a statement to the Fulcrum.

“Because I’ve waited so long to receive the grade, I haven’t been able to figure out my TGPA [term grade point average] and contact an advisor about what option would be preferable to me for grad[uate] applications. I’ve decided not to SAT [satisfactory] my grade due to the possible negative impact it could have on my grad[uate] applications next year.”

Cirtwill explained that allowing the final mark deadline to be pushed back has left her “frustrated.”

“I find it’s a bit frustrating that there is more leniency given to prof[essors] in terms of due dates,” she said. “Especially when there is still the imposed penalty for lateness in most courses … the university’s suggestion for compassion to students seems to be disingenuous.”

The U of O administration has been made aware of issues and requests from students who need their transcripts for graduate school applications and funding. 

“The University processes those cases in priority. We have received a lot of requests and they are all being processed at this time,” said Mallioux-Pulkinghorn. 

In response to the delay, Tim Gulliver, the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) advocacy commissioner, hopes the university will fix the issue for the winter semester.

“We understand that there are a series of cascading issues that emerge the later grades are submitted,” said Gulliver, who campaigned for the pass or fail option on behalf of students. 

“We [UOSU] are hopeful that in future winter semesters, the university will revert back to its usual practice of providing students with fall final grades in mid-January at the latest, which is the norm at most Ontario universities.”