After advocating for pass/fail credits at Western University for the past few years, student senators are hoping to see the system implemented this year.
The pass/fail system will allow students to take a course outside of their module without receiving a numerical grade. Instead, it would only be indicated as a pass or fail on their transcript — a pass would be a grade of more than 50 per cent while a fail would be less than 50 per cent.
Courtney Hardy, chair of the Western Student Senators, said the student senators have been in communication with both Western students and administration regarding the pass/fail policy.
“This year, we’ve actually created a Senate working group [for pass/fail courses],” said Hardy. “They do research and communicate to students and gather student feedback."
a pass/fail system would increase students' mental wellness, especially in intensive programs such as medical sciences and engineering. She said student retention rates also increased from first to second year.
“The real benefit that can be gained from this, beyond student retention and mental health, is to encourage students to take courses they wouldn’t otherwise,” explained Hardy. “It would be something that would allow students to be better-rounded individuals without the worry about it affecting their academic grade.”
While the WSS' policy is still in its preliminary stages, student senators are advocating for it to be available to students across all faculties and affiliates. Each student would have one optional 1.0 pass/fail credit available to use throughout their entire undergraduate degree. Courses that are prerequisites for graduation or necessary for breadth requirements would not be eligible for pass/fail.
Schools that have already implemented a pass/fail credit system include the University of British Columbia, McGill University and York University. At University of Toronto and Queen’s University, a similar pass/fail credit system is only available within the faculty of Arts and Science.
Hardy said that Western may potentially implement pass/fail courses within one faculty as a pilot project before having it available to all faculties.
According to Hardy, one of the main concerns about the policy is whether graduate and professional degree programs would accept pass/fail credits.
“Certain professional programs don’t accept grades that are pass/fail versus actually graded because it’s more challenging to assess the applicant,” said Hardy. “It could potentially put the applicant at a disadvantage when they are applying to extremely competitive programs.”
However, Hardy said the key will be to educate students about how it could affect their graduate school applications and to remind them that the pass/fail credit is optional.
An online survey about pass/fail courses can be found on the Western Students Senators’ Facebook page to allow students to voice their comments and concerns. While it has already received a couple hundred responses, Hardy encourages students to continue to give feedback.