In a newsletter last week, the Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) announced that its two proposals to expand the Faculty of Arts & Science’s (FAS) credit/no credit (CR/NCR) policy are not likely to be implemented due to a lack of support from the faculty, despite a student survey demonstrating considerable support.

The proposals include a permanent extension to the CR/NCR deadline to after grades are released and being able to apply CR/NCR to program requirements. Courses with CR/NCR status do not affect GPA, and while they can be used as a breadth requirement, they currently cannot be counted toward program requirements.

Due to COVID-19, the FAS extended the CR/NCR deadline to allow students to see their final marks beforehand for the 2020–2021 academic year only. After this year, the FAS plans to return to the original deadline, which was in the middle of the semester. 

The ASSU wrote in the newsletter that while its proposals are unlikely to pass, the union will continue to work with the faculty to extend the CR/NCR option deadline until the last day of classes, in place of its original proposal of having the deadline after grades are released. 

Student support 

The ASSU has been working on CR/NCR proposals for the past year. Recently, the union circulated a student survey to improve its understanding of how students felt about the proposed changes. 

Over 6,000 students responded, and they showed overwhelming support for the proposal to allow up to one full course equivalent of courses with CR/NCR status to be eligible as program requirements.

In an interview with The Varsity, Santiago Bohorquez, a third-year student in Rotman Commerce, explained why he filled out the union’s survey to show his support for the proposal.

“I know that for every program there [is] at least one course… known for being quite tough, for having a low average,” Bohorquez explained. Regarding the proposal, he added that it helps to “be able to take a course and have it as a [prerequisite], but if we do [badly] in it… it helps us to save our GPA.”

Bohorquez mentioned that some classes are program requirements since students need to know the material for future classes. According to him, there are also other ways to help students cope with notoriously difficult classes, such as lowering the standards or providing more student support like tutoring.

He expressed support for possibly having a permanent CR/NCR deadline extension to the last day of classes when most coursework would be submitted. However, in that case, students still wouldn’t be able to see their grades before making the decision. 

The ASSU newsletter addressed that students often struggle with specific classes, stressing that it will continue to address the problem with the faculty. In an email to The Varsity, ASSU President Ikran Jama advised that if a student is having trouble with a class, they should reach out to their instructor before going to the department. The union frequently facilitates this process.

Faculty response

The newsletter detailed the faculty’s reasons for denying a permanent CR/NCR deadline extension. For students applying to programs at the end of their first year, the extension would shorten the timeline for departments and colleges to approve applications and could potentially delay admissions.

Moreover, since the grades of courses with CR/NCR status may still be used to determine eligibility for upper-year courses, the late CR/NCR deadline might delay the timeline for determining eligibility of upper-year courses and for determining students’ GPAs. 

Early determination of GPAs is important for a student’s academic standing, especially for those on academic suspension or probation, so the delayed timeline might result in students being removed from a class late into the term.

On the topic of making CR/NCR courses eligible for program requirements, the ASSU noted, after discussions with the faculty, that it may leave students with a less stable foundation for upper-year courses that build on material from those earlier courses.

Additionally, students may be unaware that even if a course has CR/NCR status, the grade may still be viewed by professional schools upon request. Several professional schools have also expressed concern to the faculty that asking for the grades of each program requirement with CR/NCR status would make the admissions process inefficient. 

According to the ASSU, a CR/NCR deadline extension to the last day of classes “is making its rounds through Faculty consultations and governance.” By the last day of classes, students will still have a better idea of how they are doing in a class, compared with the previous deadline of the middle of the semester. The newsletter wrote that the dean’s office supported this proposal but that there is no official timeline for the implementation of the policy.

In an email to The Varsity, the FAS confirmed that it was exploring the possibility of extending the deadline to the last day of classes permanently. However, it reiterated that the purpose of the CR/NCR option was to make students more comfortable with taking courses outside of their program or area of interest. 

The faculty concluded that it will keep students updated on policy changes, and added that students struggling in any course should seek guidance on how to proceed.