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Pass or fail
The UOSU had started a petition that gathered over 5,360 student signatures to put pressure on the university. Image: Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum.

Some students in the faculties of medicine and health sciences will not be given the option to convert a grade to satisfactory or unsatisfactory

A majority of the undergraduate student body will be given the option to convert a numerical grade for one of their courses to either a satisfactory or unsatisfactory rating for both the fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters.

“The university has decided to give undergraduate students the option of choosing a qualitative grade for one of their eligible fall 2020 term courses,” announced the University of Ottawa in an email to students on Wednesday afternoon. 

“This singular measure will allow the student, under certain conditions, to select one course that will receive a qualitative grade of satisfactory [or] unsatisfactory instead of a letter grade.”

There will be exceptions, however, as students in the faculty of medicine who are enrolled in the undergraduate medical education program and those in the faculty of health sciences enrolled in nursing, as well as food and nutrition sciences, will not be offered the option.

According to the university, there will also be “different rules” that will apply to the faculty of law, common law section.

The announcement follows a nearly month long effort and campaign by the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) to improve the online learning experience for students. On Nov. 19, Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s advocacy commissioner, sent an open letter to the U of O outlining a number of recommendations to improve online learning that included compassionate modified pass or fail grading.

“After numerous conversations with the university, asking them to offer students concrete change rather than kind words, students in most programs will now have the option to apply for pass [or] fail grading for one of their courses, for both the fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters,” wrote the UOSU in a press release. 

In spite of the exceptions, the UOSU highlighted this breakthrough with the university as “a huge win for student advocacy.” As part of their Online Learning Campaign, the UOSU had started a petition that gathered over 5,360 student signatures.

“From the very beginning of online learning, we’ve been listening to you to hear about what challenges you’ve been facing this semester,” wrote the UOSU. “Make no mistake, the credit is not for us or the university to take — this win for students is thanks to you.” 

The UOSU warns students to exercise caution when choosing to convert a grade to satisfactory or non-satisfactory. 

 “Please also keep in mind that picking the pass [or] fail option can have a negative impact, in some cases, for students applying for graduate opportunities.”

The university will provide students with a form and a link informing them on how they can convert their selected grade to satisfactory or unsatisfactory in mid-January.