Grading system approved

Ashlee Clark

After being addressed through proposals, a rally and an ad hoc committee, the issue of plus/minus grading has been resolved – at least for the next two years.

A proposal to place pluses and minuses on transcripts without affecting grade point averages or quality points was approved at the University Senate meeting on March 18.

Twenty-six senators voted for the proposal and 20 voted against it.

The proposal came from an ad hoc committee on academic quality that has been reviewing plus/minus grading and ways to improve academic quality at Western. That committee will become a standing senate committee next semester.

The plus/minus system will be studied for two years to collect data on the system’s impact.

Pluses and minuses will start appearing on transcripts next semester.

Grades received prior to next semester will not be affected.

Some of the things that will be studied during the two-year program include the effects of plus/minus grading on the number of students on academic probation, student eligibility for graduation honors and student performance in classes that require a C in a prerequisite class.

Some faculty questioned the need to enact a new system during the meeting.

Claus Ernst, a math professor and senator, said the proposal did not address the central question regarding the rationale to change the current system.

“You said we’re moving forward, but moving forward to what?” he said.

Student senator Dana Lockhart, a senior from Hendersonville, Tenn., said the senate needs to address why a system that may struggle should be approved.

The members of the academic quality committee were asked what their opinions on plus/minus grading were before being on the committee and how their opinions have changed.

Some senators said they were originally against plus/minus grading, but were in favor of the senate proposal because it would not affect GPA or quality points and would allow the system to be studied for two years.

Patricia Minter, a history professor and senator, said after the meeting that the new grading system is a “more precise means” of evaluating student performance.

“I think the students are going to discover that it is not going to hurt them, it will help them,” she said.

Brian Strow, an economics professor and senator who made the initial proposal for plus/minus grading last semester, said after the meeting that the senate may have approved the proposal because of the academic quality committee’s review of existing research on plus/minus grading.

“I’m pleased with the result of the vote, and I’m happy to see that we can proceed with the experiment of the plus/minus system so we can see how it affects Western students,” he said.

Lockhart proposed a motion during the meeting to postpone the vote for the plus/minus system until the senate’s next meeting on April 15.

The motion was seconded by Louisville senior Troy Ransdell, a student senator, but did not pass.

The low voter turnout – 1,232 students participated – during the Student Government Association’s elections may have hurt the student argument against plus/minus grading, Ransdell said.

“How can we argue that students are so dead-set against this new proposal if they don’t come out to vote?” he said.

The other recommendations from the academic quality committee were tabled until the next meeting to cut back on the length of the meeting, which lasted 2 1/2 hours, senate chair Doug Smith said.

Reach Ashlee Clark at [email protected].