If you find yourself struggling in a course, or even on the verge of failing it, the Late Withdrawal (LWD) and Credit/No Credit (CR/NCR) options are there to support you.

CR/NCR gives students the option of receiving a credit if their mark is above 50 per cent, while a LWD appears on your transcript and no credit is given. These options protect your GPA from irreversible harm if you haven’t done your best in a course. By offering students significant breathing room in U of T’s academically-focused environment, these remind all of us that it is okay to slip up and make mistakes.

The LWD and CR/NCR options can also encourage students to expand their breadth of course selections, and explore other areas of interest, while protecting their GPA if the courses are out of their academic comfort zone.

However, these options are not always freely taken up by students. In an academic environment where expectations for excellence are high and everyone around you seems to be battling it out for a gold star on their transcript, it may feel impossible to admit that you’re not doing well. However, it’s important to keep in mind that pushing through to the end of the semester and turning each course into a competition will end up hurting us in the end.

The toxic attitude which equates stress to success often goes unaddressed at U of T and it can lead some students to regard lower grades as inexcusable.

Feeling overwhelmed, some students may push themselves too far, and suffer physical and mental health consequences as a result of sleep deprivation, stress, and unhealthy eating habits. This should never happen. Doing your best means doing what’s best for you, and that means recognizing when coursework has become too overwhelming.

However, for some students, choosing to use LWD or CR/NCR may feel like giving up or showing weakness. There is a stigma that surrounds these options. They can be seen as blemishes on an otherwise flawless transcript or even as academic failure.

This is a fundamental misrepresentation of the choice to use these options, which is evidence of the impacts of a toxic academic culture that prioritizes academic success over well-being.

Choosing these options should be seen as a natural part of our academic journey.

In September, yet another student died at U of T. Normalizing the use of these options, and establishing a more supportive academic environment, is especially necessary to combat the ongoing mental health crisis on campus.

We must also understand that education should be a space for positive growth, and deconstructing a toxic academic environment starts with the understanding that there is no one way to go through university. Members of our community should not have to feel restricted by a pressure to succeed in a predetermined path that is not for everyone.

For instance, finishing school in four years is unrealistic for many students, especially those from lower-income backgrounds who often work to support themselves throughout school and take lower course loads.

Only by embracing non-linear educational paths can we build a university that works for everyone. Destigmatizing LWD and CR/NCR will go a long way to this end.

Mélina Lévesque is a fourth-year Anthropology and Political Science student at Victoria College.