Senate may consider new grading

Lindsey Reed

Grades may be getting a little more detailed on TopNet next year if University Senate approves a new grading system.

Economics professor Brian Strow recommended a plus and minus grading system at the senate meeting Thursday. He said it could be a better grading tool for the university.

“More and more universities are moving to a plus and minus system, and you’ll be finding more and more new faculty that come in will have more familiarity with the plus/minus system,” he said.

Provost Barbara Burch said that in her seven years at Western, there has not been a motion to change the grading system.

She said Strow brought up an interesting point when he said there can currently be differences between students earning the same letter grade.

“I think it’s a valid point and one that will get serious attention,” she said.

Burch said that if a change in the grading system does pass, students’ previous grades will not be affected.

Western currently has a five letter grading system, A through F, where each letter grade extends by 10 points when figuring out a grade point average.

Strow said that eight of Western’s benchmark universities have a plus/minus grading system.

In addition, the University of Kentucky and Centre College use similar systems.

“If it’s not adopted, we stick out as refusing change,” Strow said.

Strow said an ideal plus/minus scale would give greater GPA points for pluses and lower GPA points for minuses.

“An 88 student in economics class is totally different than an 81 percent student,” he said.

Bill Greenwalt, a member of the senate’s Executive Committee, said he also sees problems with the current grading system.

“I think it’s unfair to the one that did much better in the course,” he said.

Greenwalt said he has previously worked at two universities with a plus/minus system.

“I think the plus/minus system is a much fairer reflection of the students’ input into a course,” he said. “The current system kind of inflates the students’ GPAs.”

Strow said a plus/minus system would give professors more flexibility in assigning grades, and the grades would more accurately represent students’ performance in class.

Patricia Minter, chair of the General Education Committee, said she already puts plus and minus grades on students’ papers, even though she can’t give a student that type of grade on TopNet.

Minter said that all her schooling and work experiences at other universities included the plus/minus system, and she enjoyed it as a student.

“I think it is a far more superior system,” she said. “It allows you to give a very accurate assessment of a student’s grade.”

Bowling Green sophomore Elizabeth Puryear said a tougher grading system might make her study more, but she doesn’t think the majority of students will.

“I don’t think it would change the way students would study,” she said. “I think they would just make worse grades.”

Glasgow junior Jarrod Keown said that he thinks the current grading system is tough enough.

“I can see the positives of it from a professor’s prospective, but I’d like to keep it the way it is from a student perspective,” Keown said.

Strow said he plans to make a formal motion for the change at next month’s meeting, and hopes the new grading system could be implemented next fall for all students.

Senate chair Doug Smith said that after a formal motion is made, the issue can be given to a committee for further discussion and possible legislation before a vote can be made.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]