Canisius expanding pass/fail policy for spring semester

Canisius announced Tuesday it would expand its pass/fail policy for classes. President John J. Hurley said it would relieve some stress, but some students believe it’s not the best option:


Canisius will expand the “pass/fail” grading policy for undergraduate and graduate students in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an email from Dr. Sara Morris, Canisius’ associate vice president for academic affairs. 

Students may apply the policy to any class they are currently taking, even if those classes count for their majors or for the All-College Honors Program. They have until May 1 to decide if they want to convert a course to pass/fail.

The policy works like this: any course with a “P” grade automatically gives credit for the class. A course with a “U” grade will not give credit for the class.

Undergraduate students must earn the equivalent of a “D” to get a pass while graduate students must get the equivalent of a “C” in order to pass. The GriffCenter is currently working on a list of courses that require a higher grade to pass and hopes to have that list published by April 13.   

“In light of extraordinary circumstances … we wanted to liberalize pass/fail rules this semester and see if we can get people’s anxiety down a little,” President John J. Hurley said Tuesday. 

Canisius’ policy had originally allowed students to use a pass/fail designation on four electives, one per semester. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, students have been forced online for their classes as part of the school’s Academic Continuance Plan. 

While the policy looks to relieve pressure on already stressed-out students, there are those that believe a pass/fail policy leaves less fortunate students behind. 

“This just widens the gap between students with resources and students with less resources,” said Jenna Montague, a senior at the University of Rochester with plans to attend the University of Arizona for a doctorate in optical sciences. Rochester recently instituted a pass/fail policy as well. 

“A student shouldn’t have to explain in a job interview that they had to choose to pass/fail a class because their family can’t afford reliable internet or doesn’t have the space for them to work,” Montague said. 

Morgan Morris, a junior at Canisius, had a similar opinion. “Those who are experiencing difficulties accessing technology or medical issues that seriously affect their performance in the class should be given the option for pass/fail,” she said via text. 

“Other than that, I think people should challenge themselves in this time to get the best grade possible. We have all (or at least most of our resources) on hand so, if anything, it should be easier to get the grade if you really want it,” said Morris.

Other schools in the area that have also instituted a pass/fail policy include the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University at Buffalo. Students at Daemen College have petitioned for the school to adopt a pass/fail policy as well.

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