Last week, the University of Toronto Mississauga Academic Affairs Committee passed a motion to make changes to the existing Repeating Passed Courses policy that currently allows students to use one repeated course credit towards their cumulative grade point average (CGPA). With the new changes, the second attempt will be labeled as a “Second Attempt for Credit” (SAC), and it will count toward credit totals and their GPA.
The changes come after years of advocating done by the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) for a “Course Retake Policy.”
According to the current policy, “students are allowed to repeat passed courses only once” and “the second attempt is not counted in the student’s GPA calculations or in the degree credit count but is instead denoted as ‘extra’ on the student’s academic record.” In 2012, the UTMSU brought up the issue after succeeding on passing the “Credit/No Credit Policy.” In their advocacy work with the Office of the Dean and the UTM Registrar, the union stressed the importance of academic policies that would help combat poor mental health among students.
During the meeting, UTMSU President Felipe Negata praised the policy, stating, “I cannot begin to imagine the number of students this policy will help. I’m an international student and, reflecting on my experience, I moved here by myself—I was learning how to cook and budget my finances, and I was also taking a full course load. It’s really exciting to see what we’re doing here today, the second chance we’re giving to students.”
“I’ve been able to call UTM my home for the past four years, and like a home it’s always nice to see improvements,” he continued.
Since September of 2015 there have been 1340 instances of repeating passed courses. When the second attempt was completed, students achieved a median increase of thirteen per cent over their previous grade. Of the overall instances, ten per cent of students received lower marks than their original grade.
During the meeting, acting Vice-Principal Academic and Dean Angela Lange stated, “[Grades] don’t improve hugely on average, so the notion is why not let them have that percentage increase? We don’t want students to think, ‘I’m going to take this second attempt and I’m now going to increase my GPA a huge amount’. A student who got a seventy isn’t all of a sudden going to get a hundred.”
The policy changes passed unanimously, and UTM is aiming to have it implemented starting May 1st, 2019 after an approval from Governing Council.
The meeting also provided an update on the ‘experiential learning’ initiatives the university has been implementing.
Experiential Learning Officers Stephanie Vega and Kayla Sousa, who offer direct support to the department of biology, the department of chemical and physical sciences, the forensic science program, as well as the Institute of Culture, Communication, Information and Technology (ICCIT), discussed what UTM’s new Experiential Education Unit (EEU) has done since the end of the 2017-2018 academic year.
By performing outreach to new and existing placement partners, the EEU has assisted with the aforementioned departments to offer new, and expanded, internship opportunities, including the department of Biology’s fourth year internship course, BIO400. As a result of their efforts, the EEU has obtained eighteen new internship opportunities for the 2018-19 academic year were created with a final student enrolment of 15, with all students being successfully placed into internships.
With regard to the department of chemical and physical sciences, the EEU has assisted in the implementation of a new fourth year internship course, CPS400, which created nine new internship opportunities for the 2018-2019 academic year.
“In formalizing these opportunities, pre-existing relationships with partners were strengthened, and new partnerships with the university were formed,” Vega said during the meeting.
“We have seen a tremendous growth, particularly in the internship courses,” stated Sousa. “We had a goal in May of securing about ten to twelve internship postings which students could then apply to. We were ultimately able to procure forty-nine.”
In the coming year, the EEU hopes to establish a feedback advisory board consisting of partners and alumni, as well as host information sessions for students.