McGill’s exam deferral regulations now allow students with COVID-19 to request a deferral without a medical note. This alteration was made on Nov. 25 after meetings between Law Senator Josh Werber, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) vice-president (VP) University Affairs (UA) Kerry Yang, and McGill administrators.
Under McGill’s existing regulations, students in eligible faculties, including Arts, Management, and Science, get one opportunity while completing their degree to defer an exam without supporting documentation. For subsequent deferrals, supporting documentation is required. Such documentation includes a medical note from a verified health practitioner, a statement of capacity that indicates to what extent a student’s condition has hindered them academically, dates during which the student was impacted, and when they are expected to recover.
The Deferred and Supplemental Exams webpage now indicates that for students in eligible faculties who have contracted COVID-19 “a medical note is not mandatory even if this is not your first deferral.”*
As COVID-19 case numbers soar once again, medical clinics in Quebec are increasingly backlogged. Yang explained that the modification of the regulations is meant to alleviate the stress on students who contract the virus and struggle to obtain supporting documentation due to the overburdened health care system or other accessibility issues.
“All this, the documentation, the entire process [of requesting a deferral] is extremely stress-inducing, especially during finals season,” Yang said in an interview with the The McGill Tribune. “We sort of want what requires the least amount of work and effort out of [students].”
McGill media relations officer Frédérique Mazerolle noted in an email to the Tribune that exam deferrals should only be used for extremely strenuous circumstances.
“Deferring an exam is an exceptional measure, and is meant to help students who are severely ill or dealing with unforeseeable, significant extenuating circumstances,” Mazerolle wrote. “Requests due to minor illnesses (e.g. a cold, cramps, nausea, etc.), minor personal matters, for scheduling conflicts (e.g. travel plans), or to manage your workload will not be approved.”
Deferral requests can also be refused for the failure to provide a valid reason, recurring deferral requests for similar reasons without attempting to address the barriers hindering a student’s ability to write the exam, and inadequate medical documentation.
While there may be fear of students taking advantage of the policy due to the leniency of the new clause, Werber believes it should not present a significant concern. In an interview with the //Tribune//, he asserted that inappropriate use of a policy is bound to occur and that students in need of deferrals should not be punished for the possibility of improper use.
“You’ll have students who legitimately deserve a deferral, who don’t get one,” Werber said. “I’d rather have the occasional bad actor get a deferral than [have] some student who’s legitimately sick [not] get it.”
Macdonald Campus Students’ Society (MCSS) VP UA Alireza Roosta explained that the uncertainty over the approval of deferral requests has forced students to attend their exams while ill.
“The first thing that you think of is, ‘Okay, I have 12 hours before my exam, and I need to get my request approved and I also need to get, for example, medical documentation. So how can I do all of that? Isn’t it better for me just to show up sick?’” Roosta said.
Werber has hope that the medical note exemption for COVID-19 cases will be carried over to other illness-related exam deferrals.
“Hopefully, this practice of not requiring a medical note for COVID-19 is the beginning of a new direction by which students are believed when they have an accessibility issue or need a deferral, rather than always having to prove it all the time,” Werber said.
Those who need to request an exam deferral can do so through the Student Menu on Minerva.
*This information was listed on the Deferred and Supplemental Exams webpage at the time of publication.