Late grades an annual issue

(Photo by Nick Lachance)
(File Photo by Nick Lachance)

The policies surrounding the submission of final grades were altered slightly at the last Wilfrid Laurier University senate and board meeting on Jan. 14.

For classes that have no exams, instead of having the faculty give those grades 96 hours — four days — after the final class of the semester to the registrar’s office, they now have 96 hours after the final examination date of the semester. Professors at Laurier also have 96 hours after the writing of an exam to submit their final grades.

While the policy about classes with exams was in effect prior to the senate meeting, Ray Darling, the registrar at Laurier, placed a large emphasis at the meeting about professors meeting the deadline.

By Jan. 2, 2,600 grades were still outstanding — two weeks after the final examination date of the fall semester and just five days before the start of second semester.

“It’s pretty much been an issue every term that grades in general aren’t submitted on time,” explained Darling. “Until we get all of our grades in, we’re not able to roll grades to be official, which is kind of a system thing.”

Darling noted that at this point most grades from last semester have been submitted, but the delay could have created some issues with upper-year students requesting transcripts for graduate school applications, most of which are due by early to mid-January.

“Laurier students applying for these places, it’s always kind of tight for them. So we want to roll grades for that so we can release official transcripts,” said Darling. He added that students that fail a prerequisite or have to withdraw from the university won’t find out until later in the semester because of late grades.

“We’re assessing students’ performance and we may discover after the last grades come in that [that] student may no longer be eligible to continue and to me it’s difficult — we do it still — to tell a student during the second week of school that they’re no longer eligible to continue,” he continued, noting that the policy at the University of Guelph while he was there was only 48 hours.

The major change to the policy, however, was for classes with no exams. Mary Kelly, a finance professor at Laurier, had many fourth-year classes that had a final assignment instead of an exam and said that the new policy will give students and professors the time they need.

“I was in violation of that original [policy that stated] they have to be in within 96 hours of the last day of class,” she said. “I think faculties and students a lot of the time want to say when an assignment is due, there are good teaching reasons why.”

But with the limit of 96 hours, Kelly raised a concern about the increasing size of first- and second-year classes and how that could directly impact the time it takes to submit final grades. According to Kelly, with only a handful of teacher assistants (TAs) and hundreds of students, marking that many exams could be troublesome.

“It could be tough to get 400 exams marked in 96 hours, and we don’t want to always do multiple choice [tests],” Kelly continued. “We don’t want these policies to dictate the best way to actually examine students.”

Chris Walker, the vice-president of university affairs at the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, echoed Kelly’s remarks, adding that TAs are not usually required to work so many hours marking exams in such a short period of time.

“As a student, you don’t want a TA staying up all night drinking red bull to marking our exams. When they see the same thing time after time, undoubtedly that’s going to have an impact to how they perceive things,” he explained.

But Walker did assert that students should get their marks relatively quickly after an exam and that the policy of 96 hours is a reasonable deadline.

Since illness and busy schedules can impede professors from reaching the deadline, Darling understands that some marks will be coming in late, just not as high as it was this past semester.

“The vast majority of our faculty members do this and they do it on time,” Darling concluded. “What we’re trying to highlight…it has real implications for the students.”

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