MONTREAL -- If this year is a historical blip, Concordia University has decided to treat it that way, coming up with temporary rules that will allow students to avoid failing.

They won’t all pass their classes, necessarily, but a grading system for the pandemic will allow them to drop failed courses off their transcripts so their grade point average doesn’t suffer, among other tweaks.

Students lobbied for the change, arguing that this year is really tough, from virtual studying to their teachers’ exhaustion.

“We don't think the quality of the education is the same,” said Sarah Mazhero of the Concordia Student Union.

“We have some rogue teachers that make it harder for us to participate in class.”

Students are struggling to learn, and professors don’t have fixed rules around how they’re supposed to teach online, Mazhero said.

“For instance, they’re not recording lectures, which puts students at a disadvantage,” she said.

So the student union pressured Concordia’s administration to adjust—and it listened.

Concordia came back with three options: students could defer exams, change their grading in a course to pass/fail, or, if they failed, they could drop the class without repercussions.

That means that on paper, no Concordia students will fail this year.

Some students several blocks away took note, asking why McGill wasn’t following suit. One second-year McGill student, Tristan Kleine-Fournier, started a petition to bring the same grading system to his school, and the McGill student society says it’s advocating for it too.

This semester feels abnormal, Kleine-Fournier said.

“I’m working harder and the grades aren’t there,” he said. “I don’t know why, but I can’t make it work and I’m working harder than before— it really takes a toll on the mental health. It’s stressful.”

McGill declined to comment, saying it wasn’t aware of the students’ efforts.

At Concordia, Mazhero and the student union haven’t reached all their goals yet: they also want clear guidelines on virtual teaching. 

“I think the university just needs to set up a standard,” Mazhero said. 

Online learning is the new normal—for this year, anyway—and everyone needs to adjust, she said.