Changes to undergraduate withdrawal deadlines and grading practices for the Spring 2020 semester

Information about the recent email received by SFU students

By: Harvin Bhathal, News Writer

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic SFU will be proceeding with an optional pass/fail grading format for the spring 2020 semester. 

Further, SFU has extended the deadline for undergraduate students to withdraw from courses to April 9. This would still have a “W” notation on the students’ record.

At the end of the semester, students will have the choice to either accept the grade given in that class, or opt for a “P” (for pass) instead. All students with a “D” grade or higher are eligible to opt for a ‘P’ instead of the standard letter grade. Students can decide which option they would like to pick for each course individually. 

“P” grades will still count towards total credits earned. For enrollment in future courses, “P” grades will fulfill the minimum grade for a prerequisite to a course.

For students that fail a course in the Spring 2020 semester, SFU has allowed for the grade to not count towards their GPA for the current semester. Jonathan C. Driver, Vice-President Academic and Provost pro tem shared the news with students in an email.

“We recognize that you will need to consider carefully what option you will choose for each course you are currently enrolled in. You may choose a “P” grade for as few or as many courses as you wish,” Driver stated.

“In the next several days we will prepare FAQs and other resources to help guide your decision-making. Please be patient with us while we put these resources together — you can expect an update from us with details early next week, including information about how to access advising regarding your individual circumstances,” he added.

In an email interview with The Peak, SFU student senator Jennifer Chou said, “I feel like it’s a step in the right direction. It shows that SFU is taking students’ concerns seriously and doing everything possible to make everyone’s lives easier. I really appreciate the fact that students are given the option to choose what they feel is best for their specific situation.”

The changes to grading procedures were a source of much discussion on Facebook and other social media channels in the preceding weeks. A petition, signed by over 5,000 students, was created on by student senator Colin Fowler. It urged SFU to change to the pass/fail format, or to implement a grade freeze. 

Over 5,000 students offered their support for the petition, citing changes brought on by the pandemic to their situations, such as having to consider how to pay their bills or take care of their children, as reasons to sign. However, others felt as if doing so would waste the work they put in to maintain a high GPA, especially for students who plan to attend graduate school’s where acceptance is GPA-based.

On Facebook, SFU student Travis McLellan was one of many students who pushed for the grading change.

“I feel that this allows those who are struggling with [their situations], the ability to mitigate some of the stress associated with maintaining grades, while also allowing those who have worked hard during the semester to maintain or increase their GPA [ . . . ] and be rewarded for their effort,” said McLellan.