Dear Bishop’s Community,
The University takes the challenges faced by all members of our community during this exceptional global pandemic very seriously. The University is committed to supporting the entire community as much as possible.
We write to inform you of a series of decisions made by the University’s Senate on October 30, 2020. First, a majority of Senate members voted in favour of the following motion made by the Vice-President Academic of the Students’ Representative Council: The University will extend the availability of the Pass/Fail (P/F) option for all courses for the Fall 2020 semester, in a manner akin to the Spring 2020 semester.
This means that professors will continue with numerical grading for the remainder of the semester. Final grades will be submitted by December 20, 2020. Once grades have been submitted, a student could request to convert a passing numerical grade to a PASS. Numerical grades below the relevant passing threshold will be converted automatically to FAIL on the transcript. This approach will ensure that all students receive a numerical grade but may then choose to opt for a PASS grade if so desired. As outlined in the Academic Calendar, students must complete all course requirements (e.g., assignments, group activities, quizzes and exams) to the best of their ability to be eligible for this Pass-Fail option. Along with the Students’ Representative Council, the University is committed to ensuring that students are fully aware of the potential negative repercussions of selecting to convert a numerical grade to a PASS. For example, students considering applying for graduate school or a professional program, especially competitive ones, should probably not avail themselves of this option.
The Senate’s decision emerged after serious and thoughtful discussion and wide consultation of students, full and part-time Faculty and teaching Librarians, as well colleagues from other universities in Quebec and in the Maple League. The University believes that the Senate’s decision aligns with Bishop’s beliefs and values about a student-centered approach to a liberal education. We are in the middle of a global pandemic: nothing about this semester is normal or easy for anyone. The Students’ Representative Council’s survey of all students highlights that young people are struggling with issues of mental health and loneliness and are overwhelmed with the realities and workload of studying online. At Bishop’s, we believe that we must remain agile, compassionate and responsive to make decisions to support our students and see them through to graduation.
The University and the Students’ Representative Council believe that a multi-pronged approach to alleviating student stress and anxiety during this exceptional COVID-19 academic year will be most effective. Consequently, the Senate also voted on a variety of other measures to help alleviate student stress and anxiety:
- The deadline for withdrawing from courses (the WP deadline) will be extended to the last day of classes;
- No student will be required to withdraw from the University or from any program because of their fall 2020 academic results;
- The start of the University’s Winter Semester will be delayed by one week to give students an extended break, to facilitate any required quarantining and to allow faculty and staff more time to prepare for the Winter Semester.
The University will continue to help Faculty to identify ways to adapt their teaching and assessment to be flexible and responsive to student needs and stress while maintaining academic standards and the integrity of a Bishop’s degree. We also aim to identify new strategies for supporting students’ technical challenges and for addressing their needs for authentic interaction and engagement in and outside of classes.
Increased support for Faculty will focus on helping them manage the stress and increased workload experienced in this challenging academic year. Additional measures in support of teaching and learning will be announced soon.
The University and the Students’ Representative Council wish to acknowledge and express profound appreciation for Faculty and staff efforts during this challenging academic year.
Miles Turnbull, Vice-Principal Academic & Research
Georges-Philippe Gadoury-Sansfaçon, Vice-President Academic, Students’ Representative Council