Plus/minus proposal tabled

Lindsey Reed

The University Senate decided on Thursday to postpone voting on the proposed plus/minus grading system. The proposal was instead sent to a newly created ad hoc committee on academic quality consisting of faculty, administrators and students.

The committee was given until March to make its recommendations to the full senate.

Senate Chair Doug Smith said the ad hoc committee was created Nov. 10 during a senate executive committee meeting.

Economics professor Brian Strow, who proposed the plus/minus grading system, voted against sending the proposal to the ad hoc committee.

“All the information has been available for senators in the last few months,” he said. “I don’t think there is anything else to learn about it.”

Strow said he gave senators a month’s notice on the proposal, attended a student forum and attended the rally before the meeting.

He said he remains confident that the proposal will receive positive attention from the committee.

“I think further study will only help show the merits of the system,” he said.

In a non-binding straw poll taken during the meeting, senate members voted against changing the current grading system, 34-22.

A large majority voted to send the proposal to an ad hoc committee.

SGA President John Bradley said he was pleased the proposal was sent to the ad hoc committee and with the straw poll results.

“The likelihood of the plus/minus system being implemented is very small in my opinion now,” he said.

Bradley said SGA will continue its efforts to oppose the plus/minus system in the ad hoc committee.

During the meeting, some members expressed concerns about passing the grading change.

Claus Ernst, a math professor and senate member, said he has heard

different claims about the merits of the plus/minus system.

“I’ve seen a lot of hearsay that it might do this or it might not do this,” he said.

He said the claim that the grading system would increase student learning is skeptical.

“Students by in large are not in favor, and that means to me that we ought to listen to them unless we have a really strong reason which can be actually documented that this system indeed increases student learning,” he said.

Faculty Regent Robert Dietle, an advisory member of the executive committee, said the ad hoc committee wouldn’t fix the problems with a change in the grading system, but it would be beneficial.

“I think we not only need time to get more information, I think we need time for people’s anxiety levels to lower somewhat,” he said. “If we take the time to study it and consult with the university-wide community and educate each other more, I think this will be less of an apocalyptic issue.”

Jackson junior Josh Collins, a student senate member, told senate members not to rush into a decision.

“We need prior planning before we go rushing through this doing things that we aren’t sure that are in the best interest for students,” he said.

Senate Vice Chair Jim Berger told members that one of the benefits of the ad hoc committee was that it could look into various types of grading systems.

Berger said he agrees that the current grading scale needs to be examined but thinks there are more solutions than just the proposal’s.

“I strongly encourage you to consider other ways as well, rather than just limiting us to a plus/minus system,” he said during the meeting.

Before the senate voted to send the proposal to the new ad hoc committee, Smith told members that they could still vote to pass the proposal.

“I am not stopping this body from speaking its voice on an issue if it so chooses,” he said.

Smith said the committee would take a closer look at the proposal, among other issues such as strengthening the academic culture on the Hill.

Changes in the grading system, the drop/add/withdraw policy and the advising system will all be examined in the new committee.

Committee members were not selected during the meeting.

The committee will consist of a senate member from each of the university’s six colleges, a representative from the Graduate Council, two representatives from SGA and three non-voting representatives.

Each of the three non-voting members will come from Academic Affairs, the Registrar’s Office and from Student Advising and Retention.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]