Addressing student concerns to reinstate grade change option from Winter 2020

C/O Engin Akyurt

As we head into the last half of the 2021 winter semester, McMaster University students are beginning to call for an option to make this semester’s grades on a pass/fail basis. One such student is Rozhan Estaki, a second-year sociology student minoring in mental health and addictions.

Estaki started a petition on March 1 to have McMaster bring back the pass/fail option for winter 2021. This option was given in winter 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic led to an abrupt and complete shift from in-person to online learning.

Estaki started a petition on March 1 to have McMaster bring back the pass/fail option for winter 2021. This option was given in winter 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic led to an abrupt and complete shift from in-person to online learning.

“We got the opportunity last year to take the pass or fail option,” explained Estaki. “Although the situation is not as new [as winter 2020], it doesn’t mean that online learning has gotten any easier.” 

“Although the situation is not as new [as winter 2020], it doesn’t mean that online learning has gotten any easier.” 

Rozhan Estaki

She started the petition after talking to many of her friends and peers, who were all still struggling with online classes, especially this semester.

“It seems [like] we’re covering [more in] what feels like a less amount of time,” emphasized Estaki.

As of March 7, the petition has 171 signatures, a number that has continued to grow each day. 

Estaki expressed surprise over the amount of signatures. “I didn’t think it would have such a positive turnover,” said Estaki.

In terms of the petition’s impact, Estaki hoped that it is something that will allow for professors and students to come to a common ground of understanding. 

“It would be [important] to have Mac recognize that we as students are trying so hard. We appreciate the efforts that McMaster [and their] staff are putting in, but it just might feel like too much for some of us, [especially in terms of] mental health . . . we want people to see that, to recognize that, and to be comfortable with what we’re producing,” said Estaki. 

To evaluate the online learning environment, McMaster launched a virtual learning task force in fall 2020. The task force consisted of over 30 faculty, staff and students that collected feedback from the McMaster community about the virtual learning experience. This included the MacPherson Institute’s Fall 2020 Experience Survey in October that got over 3,000 responses from students and instructors. 

The final report, released in November 2020, provided 21 recommendations for the university for winter 2021, especially highlighting the need for stronger mental health and support for well-being

Estaki hoped that the petition will be an opportunity to raise awareness on student concerns and at the very least, start a conversation among McMaster faculty and administration about the pass/fail option. 

“Mac is working hard towards inclusivity and especially in recognizing students with mental health concerns. I just think there’s always room for improvement, and this is one of those things that should at least be considered,” said Estaki.

“Mac is working hard towards inclusivity and especially in recognizing students with mental health concerns. I just think there’s always room for improvement, and this is one of those things that should at least be considered.”

Rozhan Estaki

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