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Photo: Matt Gergyek/The Fulcrum

Faculties of social sciences, engineering, and arts have all adopted similar measures

Following similar measures from the University of Ottawa’s faculties of engineering, social sciences, and arts, the Telfer School of Management will allow both undergraduate and graduate students to choose between a satisfactory/not satisfactory mark or a typical alphanumeric grade for winter semester courses.

The decision comes after courses for the remainder of the semester moved online last week (including exams), the majority of campus shut down, and most students were forced to leave residence by this past Sunday due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students in a number of faculties, including Telfer, 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 last 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, and law will approach final assessments.

In an email to students on Wednesday, Telfer dean François Julien said students can opt for the pass/fail grading system after their final letter grade for a course has been released. Julien said once a grading system decision is made by a student for a course, it is irreversible. 

The pass/fail grades “will not be counted in a student’s cumulative grade point average (CGPA) and may affect eligibility to certain scholarships,” Julien added. “Students are invited to assess these elements before communicating their decision to opt-out of the alphanumeric grading system.”

Julien wrote that the procedure for choosing a grading system will be communicated “at a later time.” He added that the measure applies only to Telfer courses. 

“Our hope is that the proposed measures will help alleviate stress for students while still honouring our commitment to academic integrity and excellence within the school,” wrote Julien.

Among the other measures introduced by the Telfer School of Management for the winter semester include the ability for professors to review and revise course outlines. Julien wrote that Telfer professors have been instructed to share their new grading methods, and both the format and duration of the final evaluation, by Friday.

If professors choose to still hold a final exam, online or as a take-home, the assessment will still take place at the original time it was scheduled for. Students will still be able to write a deferred exam at a later date but must fill out the U of O’s COVID-19 self-declaration form for academic accommodations.

“Please allow us to reiterate that our primary concern is to minimize the stress students may be experiencing due to the current COVID-19 crisis,” wrote Julien. “We have full confidence in the professionalism and expertise of our professors and staff who are committed to supporting our students throughout these challenging times.”

The U of O announced on Tuesday evening that courses for the summer semester will be offered online as well. The school has also launched an emergency fund that students can access for financial support due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of Wednesday, 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 nine deaths from COVID-19 and at least 671 confirmed cases of the virus as of Tuesday morning, with eight labelled as resolved. 

There have been at least 1,959 confirmed cases of the virus and 27 deaths across Canada.

Globally, COVID-19 has infected more than 454,000 people and killed over 20,000 since emerging in China in December 2019. There have been over 113,000 recoveries from the virus.

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