Grade Us Next Year…Please?

BY ERIC ANDERSSON

Well, this has been an interesting semester, hasn’t it?

I don’t think anyone could have predicted the crazy turn this term took last month, when the emerging COVID-19 pandemic forced universities around the world to shut their doors and move their classes online.  It was a crazy time full of fear and anxiety, a time where nobody really knew what was going to happen.

Of course, we still don’t really know what’s going to happen; the way this pandemic has so radically changed our day-to-day lives is proof enough of that.  It’s been more than a month now since in-person classes were canned, but we’re still getting news almost daily from the government, from the U of A, from the City of Camrose…these are crazy times we’re living in, that much is for sure.

But with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently speculating it could be weeks – even months – before the stringent health protocols in place around the country are lightened, it makes a person wonder…is this going to be how we do classes next year, too?  Are we going to have to meet through video chat not just for the last remnants of this semester, but for all of next year as well?

I don’t think any of us want to see that happen.  But with how quickly and unpredictably the COVID-19 situation has evolved, it’s a distinct possibility at this point.  And if it does, I have just one thing to ask the administrators down at the U of A.

Please…please…give us back our grades.

As you surely already know, the U of A moved to a Credit/Non-Credit grading system for this semester.  As a temporary measure, this is fine.  Would I have preferred to have letter grades this semester?  Yes, of course.  But with the way the COVID-19 situation escalated so quickly, with how promptly our government and our university had to take action to flatten the curve, the CR/NC system was probably the best the U of A could do on such short notice.

However, I don’t believe the CR/NC system is sustainable long-term.  For one thing, many students (including myself) are graduating next year; for those of us graduating, and especially for those of us who want to go on to another program after next year (like me!), having a year and a half of no grades on our transcript might be a problem.  One semester isn’t so hard to overlook, but three?  That’s a pretty big gap in our transcripts.

Another reason a return to letter grades is a must for next year is student performance.  I know I found it much harder to stay motivated in my studies without a letter grade to work toward, and most of the people I’ve talked to in the past month feel the same way.  When getting a C on a major essay means your chances at an A grade decrease dramatically, it motivates students to keep up with their studies and turn in the best work they can.  When all they’ve got to do is show up, though, it tells students they don’t have to do their best work.  They can coast, take the C, and still get a CR on their transcript.

Now, obviously, there are exceptions to this.  The U of A has said they’ll work with professors to provide evidence of excellence in their field for students who are applying to highly competitive programs.  That’s great.  But going forward, we need some kind of a return to normalcy.  And if we can’t gather with one another in class next year, well…in that case, I have just one request to make.

Please, please give us back our grades.

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