Adapt TRU's Grading System to Better Support Students During COVID-19

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Dear President of TRU,
 
I call upon you to provide all TRU students with the following grading options for any semester affected by the COVID-19 outbreak:
1.     The regular grading option
2.     Pass/Fail (Credit/Non-Credit) option
3.     Withdrawal (W) without penalty option (edit: Including those with final grades of "F")
Students should be given until the end of the relevant semester to decide which option suits them best for their courses. (Edit: Students should be allowed to withdraw prior to the end of the relevant semester, without penalty, if they feel the workload is too substantial for them).
 
Doing so would be following precedent from other institutions, such as UVIC, Concordia, University of Regina, University of Alberta and University of Calgary. We are currently facing a global pandemic, which we have never experienced before. Physical and mental health are both being adversely affected. This may be directly due to the virus and illness (to oneself or to one’s family member, where death may or may not occur) or indirectly where it affects one’s mental health. This rapid switch in how schooling is delivered has not been easy for students nor faculty. This is difficult enough for those who do not suffer from a mental health condition. Those with pre-existing mental health conditions will likely have a very difficult time with this. Those with anxiety may not be able to function due to the global panic of COVID-19. Those with depression may become suicidal due to isolation. Those with learning disabilities may have trouble with the switch in formatting. There is so much more to be discussed here, but these examples aid in getting the point across.
 
Giving a pass/fail option would allow students to succeed this semester without worrying immensely about their GPA. Students are notorious for compromising their health, both mental and physical, in order to pass a course and/or receive a high grade. Stress can suppress our immune systems, and not allowing students the opportunity to succeed with minimal stress during a global pandemic is inhumane. A weaker immune system may be more likely to become ill, and thus not be able to survive COVID-19.
 
While it is understandable that there may be some issues surrounding this switch, a global pandemic changing politics, economics and daily life completely should push us toward also changing university policy. IT should be able to manage, as other universities have been able to do so. Options mean equity for all students, depending on their current situation. Some need more help than others during this tough time. Graduate schools should be more understanding of this tough semester for everyone globally, so it would make sense to offer pass/fail, so that one’s GPA is not affected. Policy seems minimal compared to the survival of humankind.
 
TRU has taken some steps toward helping students, such as being more flexible with deferrals and withdrawals. However, a push toward withdrawals means students throw away all of their hard work due to a global pandemic. Deferrals are a good idea, but not for everyone. Those who are taking summer courses may have too much of an increased workload, which may result in deferral after deferral… Accommodations need to take everyone into consideration and should be tailored to benefit everyone depending on their current situation. TRUSU has used this model in terms of offering emergency funding for those facing challenges during COVID-19, which this model should be used as precedence for other forms of help during this global pandemic. Daily life has stopped, and many non-essential services are no longer being offered. TRU needs to better accommodate and support students during this time of mass societal change.
 
President of TRU, we should aim to provide all students with the opportunity to succeed this semester, and to not throw away their hard work. Please help better support students by adding in the option of pass/fail for all TRU students. This is the most humane option during a worldwide pandemic.
 
Sincerely,
 
TRU Student
 
*Note: Please feel free to copy/paste this letter and send to president@tru.ca