The Pass/Fail option should be used warily

Overusing the grading alternative can result in post-graduate difficulties and compromised work ethic

The P/CR/NC option was introduced for elective courses. PHOTO: Getty Images / ISTOCKPHOTO

By: Alesha Garcha, SFU Student

When the Pass/Fail (P/F) phenomenon was first introduced in March 2020, students were relieved to have their term marks hold less weight amidst the online learning switch. 

As of March 2021, SFU has passed a different option for students. The Pass/Credit/No Credit (P/CR/NC) grade system option can be used on elective courses that are not a requirement for your program. It is applicable for up to 12 units throughout Spring, Summer, and Fall 2021. If students choose to use the option it will not impact their GPA, but students are encouraged to speak with an advisor to see what option best suits their needs.

With SFU issuing the option again, students should be aware of the work ethic implications that may follow with its potential overuse. The P/CR/NC option can impede the student body’s ability to navigate what works and what doesn’t in their academic career. For some students, there’s a possibility it could dilute the seriousness of poor academic performance and contribute to an unsustainable, nonchalant attitude about studying which cannot be maintained. 

To clarify, this stance is not negligent to students who have experienced circumstances beyond their control. With SFU’s diverse student body, many have experienced unique struggles — like international students being separated from their families and those facing job loss and other mental health-related struggles. It is important to understand that it is not shameful to use these options. However, I want to emphasize the grey areas in their usage. 

The P/CR/NC option is advertised by SFU as beneficial for students wanting to expand their course choices, without the burden of worrying about course performance. However, students must still be focusing on meeting learning objectives. An overreliance on the P/CR/NC option could be treated as an excuse to disregard the learning opportunities available in courses outside of program requirements (such as in writing, quantitative, and breadth courses). 

Being in my final year at SFU, I was shocked to discover that some graduate programs disregarded Spring and Summer 2020 marks, due to the P/F being a popular pandemic-integrated system among universities. The transition to online classes was so delayed I had already submitted my final assignments. My efforts to maintain my GPA were disregarded due to the use of the P/F option. I am concerned that with SFU’s continued use of these options, some of my other course marks may also not be considered. Furthermore, students in difficult situations may be unaware of the exceptions that apply with using these options.

All students need to be wary of the new P/CR/NC option, particularly if they are working towards a post-graduate degree. The formative years of in-person university instruction allow students to develop study habits and attitudes applicable for continued academic and professional success. Although remote learning has had its challenges, there are resources for students to get back on track, and reap the benefits from attending university.