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Offer a Pass/Fail Grading scheme for Concordia's Engineering & Computer Science Students

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To Concordia President Graham Carr, Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science Dean Amir Asif, Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science Associate Dean of Academic Programs Dr. Ali Akgunduz, Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board, Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, Canadian Information Processing Society, and the Québec Ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur;

On the evening of March 25, 2020, it was announced via email to all its community that Concordia University would allow students to choose between a pass/fail notation or a letter grade for work completed in the Winter 2020 semester. This measure is intended to relieve the tremendous pressure that students are dealing with during this global COVID-19 health crisis, by giving students the option to not have their academic grades be affected negatively due to the unforeseen circumstances of this dire situation. However, it was stated that this new measure will only apply to courses that are not subject to criteria established by professional orders or licensing bodies.

While this comes to the relief of most Concordia students, this new grading scheme excludes students pursuing licensed programs of the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science at Concordia. Programs such as Aerospace, Building, Civil, Computer, Electrical, Industrial, Mechanical, and Software Engineering are all excluded under these new criteria since these programs are accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB) [1]. In addition, Computer Science programs are accredited by the Canadian Information Processing Society [1], meaning Concordia Computer Science students are also excluded from these new relief measures.

Unfortunately for Engineering and Computer Science students at Concordia University, it appears that based on Concordia’s announcement we will still be subjected to normal academic evaluation as if almost nothing has changed since the COVID-19 crisis has arrived here in Quebec. The situation in which Engineering and Computer Science students currently face concerning COVID-19 not only affects us academically, but also mentally, emotionally, and physically. These challenging times have not only disrupted our academic studies, but also added more stress to our lives due to a variety of unforeseen and extraordinary circumstances as a result of this global pandemic crisis.

Many students have had a difficult time not only dealing with adjusting to obstacles of online learning, but also facing difficult situations such as the illness of themselves or a family member, barriers to housing, the loss of internships and employment, financial difficulties, and the lack of access to reliable internet or to other necessary material(s) for distance education. Many students in addition to their studies hold remote employment, work as teaching assistants, or are parents who must now care for their children currently at home as a result of primary school and daycare closures.

Despite programs in the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science being accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board and the Canadian Information Processing Society, this does not imply that the pass/fail grading scheme cannot be applied. In fact, the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board’s criteria does not limit accreditation to any particular mode of delivery, and states that they are supportive of institutions taking reasonable measures to balance safety and academic continuity in light of the COVID-19 situation [2]. In addition, other CEAB accredited Quebec University Engineering programs have opted for a pass/fail option in their grading scheme. McGill University’s Faculty of Engineering, which is also accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board has given this option to students [3]. Polytechnique Montréal has also adapted similar measures by allowing its instructors to offer a pass/fail option to their students when deemed appropriate [4]. Outside of Quebec, schools such as the University of Toronto and the University of Calgary have decided to adapt a pass/fail scheme for all of it faculties, including Engineering and Computer Science programs [5, 6].

In light of this information, we are asking that Concordia University reconsider its decision to exclude students who are taking courses subjected to criteria established by professional orders and licensing bodies, because we feel this decision is discriminatory particularly towards Engineering and Computer science students. The consequences of the changes brought upon by the COVID-19 situation will surely impact our grade-point averages and may negatively impact our short and long-term academic standing. Having the option to have pass/fail grading scheme will alleviate the unprecedented level of stress and anxiety felt by Concordia University’s Engineering and Computer Science students. In these extraordinary and dire times, it is important that students prioritize their health and well-being, and Engineering and Computer Science students should not be excluded from relief measures.

Concordia University, we hope you will kindly reconsider your decision for the health, safety, and sanity of your valued Engineering and Computer Science students.

Sincerely,

A concerned Software Engineering undergraduate on behalf of concerned Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science students.

 

Sources:

[1] https://www.concordia.ca/ginacody/about/accreditations.html

[2] https://engineerscanada.ca/sites/default/files/accreditation/covid19_statement_ceab_mar_12_2020.pdf

[3] https://www.mcgill.ca/engineering/about-us/covid-19-updates-and-faqs/students-covid-19-faq

[4] https://www.polymtl.ca/covid19/en/resumption-educational-activity-polytechnique-march-30th-2020

[5] https://www.ucalgary.ca/registrar/student-centre/grades

[6] https://www.engineering.utoronto.ca/about/deans-message-covid-19/

 

 

 



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