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SCSU campaigns to implement extended CR/NCR option for winter 2021 semester

Proposal asks that students be able to apply policy after seeing course grades
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The SCSU has proposed a CR/NCR policy update due to the pandemic. KELLSY ANN MENESES/THE VARSITY
The SCSU has proposed a CR/NCR policy update due to the pandemic. KELLSY ANN MENESES/THE VARSITY

The Scarborough Campus Students’ Union (SCSU) has started a campaign that calls for an extension of an expanded credit/no credit (CR/NCR) policy until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SCSU has proposed that students should be allowed to use the CR/NCR option on up to one additional credit for any course or courses, including program requirements. Students would be able to use this proposed extension up to one week after receiving their final marks, and a notation would be added on the student’s transcript “explaining the circumstances which have led to the increased use of CR/NCR.” 

Currently, UTSC students can request a maximum of two credits to be assessed as CR/NCR. However, these notations can only be used toward breadth requirements and elective courses, not program requirements. 

The proposed policy would be similar to what is in place at UTSG’s Faculty of Arts & Science (FAS) this year in light of the pandemic — students are able to use the CR/NCR after they see their final grades, although they still cannot be used on courses that count toward program requirements. 

The Arts and Science Students’ Union (ASSU) at UTSG has been campaigning for a permanent change to the CR/NCR policy. Its most recent campaign to allow at least one credit of program requirements to be designated CR/NCR was not approved by the faculty due to structural issues with the proposal. 

Email campaign

The SCSU campaign is being held through an email form. When students input their names, email addresses, and postal codes, the campaign sends a pre-drafted email on their behalf. The SCSU’s campaign has gathered more than 1,600 participants, with a goal of sending 1,800 emails.

The email is sent and addressed to several of UTSC’s top administrators, including Vice-Principal Academic & Dean William Gough.

The email also lists factors such as unemployment, the transition to online learning, and food insecurity as reasons why students should not be expected to meet current academic requirements, writing that asking otherwise would be “unconscionable.” The campaign calls on Gough and his office to release an official statement outlining immediate steps to implement the requests.

SCSU statement, previous demands

In an email to The Varsity, SCSU Vice-President Academics and University Affairs Lubaba Gemma claimed that UTSC’s winter 2020 CR/NCR policy, made in response to the initial COVID-19 lockdown, demonstrated U of T’s recognition that the pandemic impacts students’ academic performance. However, the policy did not extend through the 2020–2021 school year.

The winter 2020 policy had allowed students to use the CR/NCR option for any course, including program requirements, and did not count toward U of T’s standard two-credit CR/NCR limit.

With the changes implemented, students could only select CR/NCR notations before accessing their courses’ final grades. This protocol differed from the FAS’ CR/NCR policy update, under which students can view their final grades before making a decision.

“While universities will argue that students have opted into consecutive semesters of schooling, the impacts of the pandemic are still very real and in students’ faces,” Gemma wrote.

Gemma added that, earlier in the academic year, similar CR/NCR demands made by the SCSU “were not received well by administration,” and Gough in particular. Gemma mentioned that, as a result of that response, the SCSU lobbied numerous UTSC departments to garner support from faculty and department heads.

“[The SCSU is] now coming back with this petition to reiterate the volume of student support for these changes, in hopes of establishing the precedent that students need a more equitable and accessible education system, and [this] is what that looks like,” Gemma wrote.

UTSC response

In an email to The Varsity, Gough acknowledged the significant impacts that the pandemic has had on student mental health, and wrote that UTSC has been working to support students “wherever possible.” He wrote that the university believes the current CR/NCR deadline of April 12 — one day before the start of exams — is effective, and that the purpose of the CR/NCR is to allow students flexibility in the types of courses they take. 

“At this point, students should have received sufficient feedback for their course instructor to make an informed judgement about their potential for success in the course,” wrote Gough. “Extending the deadline, to allow the student to know the final grade before requesting CR/NCR in a course, changes the academic rationale for offering this option.”