New Brunswick

UNB, Mount A and STU allow students to choose pass/fail grade for disrupted courses

St. Thomas University has joined the University of New Brunswick and Mount Allison University in implementing a pass/fail grading system for the 2020 semester because of COVID-19. 

'It's been a difficult situation and stressful for many students'

The University of New Brunswick, along with St. Thomas University and Mount Allison University, have implemented a pass-fail grading system. (CBC)

St. Thomas University joined the University of New Brunswick and Mount Allison University on Thursday in implementing a pass/fail grading system for the 2020 semester because of COVID-19. 

The pass/fail grading system allows students to choose whether they want to receive a final letter grade or a simple pass/fail mark on their transcript for a class. 

"It's been a difficult situation and stressful for many students, and they have a lot of tasks and assignments, a heavy workload," Jeffrey Carleton, spokesperson for St. Thomas, said Friday. 

"They also have some personal circumstances that are having an impact on their ability to complete the term, so we took a step back and looked at what we could do relative to our marking scheme."

More than 40 per cent of universities across Canada are allowing students to opt into a pass or fail grading system.

The University of New Brunswick and Mount Allison implemented their own versions of the pass/fail system last week. St. Thomas' senate, which includes professors and administrative staff, unanimously passed the system Thursday. The pass/fail option is only applicable for Bachelor of Arts students at St. Thomas.

"I think with all the challenges we have, we're doing the best we can," said Suzanne Prior, a psychology professor at St. Thomas. So far, she's seen a 50/50 split between students who want to opt into the pass/fail system and those who want to stick with a letter grade. 

UNB students who opt into taking a class for a pass or fail grade instead of a letter grade must notify their professors by April 9. Students at Mount A must notify their professors by April 7. 

"Responding effectively as a university requires us to be creative and flexible in constructive ways and in all aspects of our mission as we continue to prioritize student success while ensuring the health and safety of all," said a news release about the changes posted on UNB's website. 

Courses marked as a pass at UNB and STU will count toward program requirements, count as completed credit hours and count as prerequesites.

Jeffrey Carleton, a spokesperson for St. Thomas University, said a pass/fail option will ease the stress and anxiety students are dealing with. (Photo: CBC News)

Choosing a pass or fail grade will not affect a student's GPA at UNB and STU. A fail will affect a student's GPA at Mount A, however.

Mount A's pass/fail grading option also includes a third choice: a conditional pass. A conditional pass means the student passed the course but cannot use that class as a prerequiste for other courses. 

At all universities, students choosing a pass/fail grade must still complete outstanding assignments. 

Opting into the pass or fail system won't affect scholarships, unless a student is at Mount A and receives a failing grade. 

UNB, STU and Mount A advise against students opting for a pass or fail mark if they have applied or plan to apply to graduate studies. 

Carleton said that for a St. Thomas grad who does apply to graduate school, STU will send a letter to the university explaining why that student's transcript may have a pass/fail mark instead of a letter grade. 

"Every school in the country is going through this kind of process," Carleton said.

"So if they if they operate a graduate school or professional program … they're going to know what the second term of 2019-2020 was like."

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