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Sana Almansour says the UOSU is hoping this initiative will eventually reach all first-year students. Photo: Hailey Otten/Fulcrum
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Select first-year students enrolling in fall 2022 may be able to apply for compassionate grading

The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) announced on Sept. 26, at its Board of Directors meeting, that it is now advocating for the introduction of a modified compassionate grading system for BIPOC students and those who are the first in their immediate family to attend university in Canada. 

In an interview with the Fulcrum, Sana Almansour, the UOSU’s interim equity commissioner, explained that this new model of compassionate grading would apply only to first-year BIPOC or first-generation students who had to retake a course because of a bad grade.

“So we’re trying to find a method that would show the [grade they received when they took the course for the second time] and somehow alter the first grade so that it wouldn’t hinder their future within their university life.”

This would replace the pass/fail option for students who opt to use this new model, and require them to retake the course in question. Almansour says the UOSU is hoping this initiative will eventually reach all first-year students.

For the moment, UOSU is concentrating on addressing the systemic issues that students might face in the university atmosphere. The initiative is aimed first at first-year BIPOC students and first-generation university students in order to prioritize students who experience the most structural roadblocks. 

“When issues arise within university and within life itself, we always say ‘well, there are systemic issues to what these students face.’ So now is the time to address that,” said Almansour.

Almansour mentioned that UOSU is hoping this initiative will apply to all first-year courses no matter the program or department. However, Almansour said that UOSU will be paying attention to the feedback received by students in order to decide whether this initiative could expand to apply to all students in the future.

BIPOC students share thoughts on initiative

In light of this, the Fulcrum asked first-year BIPOC students on campus what their thoughts were on the initiative, and if this is something that would have been beneficial to them had it been implemented previously.

Naomi Isabage, a first-year student in political science and public communications, thinks this is a great initiative, especially for BIPOC students who are planning on doing graduate studies. 

“They already have limitations on going to grad [school]. So then that kind of grade on their transcript, the pass/fail, would definitely give the other institutions a reason to not let them in,” said Isabage.

Garima Arora, a political science student in her first year of studies, said systemic racism within institutions such as universities makes initiatives such as this one extremely helpful for BIPOC students. 

 “[Systemic racism at universities is] very secretive in a way. It’s very passive. Even sometimes I wouldn’t notice it, and I would face it [from] my teachers in the past … so I think it’s really a good idea,” said Arora with regards to the proposed initiative.

Almansour added the UOSU is still in the negotiation phase with the University of Ottawa. However, they have a shared interest in this project, and are working collaboratively to ensure they are working in the best interest of students.

Benedie Chevaler, a first-year student in international development and globalization, said compassionate grading is definitely something she would like to be applied for all years of study. Additionally, she would prefer compassionate grading over the current pass/fail option.

Since this project is still in the early stages, it most likely will not apply to Chevaler or others currently in their first year of study this year. However, if the response received by UOSU from the student body is positive, it could very well benefit future students.

Almansour added the UOSU is still in the negotiation phase with the University of Ottawa. However, they have a shared interest in this project, and are working collaboratively to ensure they are working in the best interest of students.

The UOSU is hoping to implement this initiative by the 2022-2023 academic year.