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Head to Head: Is a pass/fail system the way to go?


COVID-19 has affected many individuals and has completely changed the way in which we continue with our daily lives, and in the context of the University of Calgary community, how we continue with our studies. While the transition between working collaboratively in-person to working from home has been relatively smooth for the majority of individuals, it should also be recognized that this transition should not be assumed to be smooth for everyone. The response of different institutions throughout the province, even across the country has been varied, and frankly, these differences in response have been challenging and somewhat confusing to navigate.

According to the University of Calgary, the response to the completion of the Winter semester has been to offer a Credit Received (CR)/Fail (F) for each student. However, institutions like NAIT and the University of Alberta have completely switched their grading system to a Pass/Fail honours system, taking the student initiative out of the equation to ensure that the grades they received over the course of the semester can be used. 

This is a decision that the university has made available as a choice for each student as they see fit to end the semester. While this is a step forward for students who have experienced unprecedented challenges as a result of COVID-19 and the ability for these students to relieve themselves of just a little more stress through these uncertain times, it should also be considered that this decision shouldn’t take away the work that university students have been doing this semester. 

Although the adjustments to online learning has been a stressful time for many students, this should not take away from student accomplishments throughout the semester. The decision to have students opt for a CR/F as their final grade for a course not only diminishes these accomplishments pre-COVID-19, but allows individuals to reap the rewards that come from passing a class they may not have been particularly engaged with at the start of semester. 

The work that gets done during the school year is increasingly stressful and deserves to be recognized. The role of a student is not exactly cut-and-dry — many have part time jobs, other familial responsibilities or unforeseen circumstances. Students continuously put their nose to the grindstone, so to speak, and find ways to succeed despite hardship. COVID-19 as an unprecedented world event is an understatement. To ensure that the success of students is celebrated and maintained, it is important to not completely take away those efforts and sweep this semester under the rug. Even though this semester has casually been written off — seeing as the uncertainty has everyone confused — the dedication and commitment that university students have obtained during this semester should not be.  

Cristina PaolozziGauntlet Editorial Board


Who could’ve predicted that the end of this semester would become even more stressful? With the sudden rise of COVID-19 and the urgency for self-isolation measures to be put in place, it’s understandable that the University of Calgary set-up a “Credit Received / Fail” system for learners who are now adapting to online education. 

As a recent grad, the memories from the last four weeks of my final semester are a swirl of countless deadlines, anxiety-fuelled late nights and a stress-induced cold that led to me losing my voice. With the added stress of an international pandemic — on top of strict expectations from my professors in regard to grade performance — I think I would’ve crumbled under the pressure. 

While the “Credit-Received/Fail” system isn’t perfect, mostly due to the fact of having to be implemented as a sudden response, it’s a workable solution for current students. If students are having troubles adapting to online learning, are experiencing personal struggles or are under an inordinate amount of stress, then this allows them to still receive credit and advance in their degree. It also puts less pressure on students to use this isolation as a peak productivity period where they’re expected to produce superior content since they have “so much free time on their hands.” 

With the option to see your final grades and then choose to either keep them or request a designation of “Credit Received,” students can still work towards their academic goals if they need these grades for their GPA to get into a grad school or to transfer programs. But, if they find it too hard to achieve their goals, then they can still receive credit for their academic performance and advance in their degree.

Based on what my peers have said to me, who are currently undergraduate students, it’s been harder for them to adapt to not having a final exam. In some cases, their professors have heightened their stress by adding assignments that need to be completed by the final day of classes to make up for the lack of a final exam. This is both disheartening and inconvenient for most students since it wasn’t something they were expecting nor prepared for.  

Even though I do think this “Credit-Received/Fail” system is good for the time being, I would hope that the university takes this as an opportunity to listen to students to create a more robust and inclusive emergency protocol for the future. One that will create more streamlined measures for both students and professors to follow.

Mariah WilsonGauntlet Editorial Board

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