Uniform grading policy planned

by Jessica Burke

After more than a year of discussion on the subject, a uniform grading policy for the University system could be approved by fall.
The University Senate decided earlier this month to send the proposed policy to each of the four campuses and have them report back this fall, said Laura Koch, chairwoman of the senate’s Committee on Educational Policy.
Giving each campus an opportunity to examine and discuss the new policy on its own makes the process more realistic for the coordinate campuses, Koch said. This way, it doesn’t seem as if the decision is coming from the Twin Cities campus, she said. As the largest campus, the Twin Cities campus has the majority of representatives on the University Senate.
There are opponents to the proposal on some of the outstate campuses and sending the proposal to them will give faculty and staff there the chance to make suggestions about what they want to see in the policy, Koch said.
“Hopefully they will agree with what we’ve written,” Koch said.
The University currently has about 10 different grading systems. Some colleges use pluses and minuses, some use straight letter grades and still others use numbers along with letters to articulate variations among single letters. The systems vary among departments and from campus to campus.
“It isn’t helpful for students,” said Koch of the current policy. “We’re trying to make things as uniform as possible across the University.”
Students frequently transfer from outstate campuses to the Twin Cities and also take classes in different colleges while they are on the Twin Cities campus, Koch said.
Not only will a uniform policy help students, but it may save money and time in dealing with different grading policies in the University’s computer systems, Koch said.
The new policy would add pluses and minuses to current letter grades, but there would be no grade of A-plus.
Because of a concern that the option of an A-plus grade would lead to grade inflation — even though the policy would have required a written justification for the grade — the option was dropped.
Another important change to current policy is the definition of an “S” grade. There currently is no definition, Koch said.
Under the new policy, to receive a grade of S, students must do satisfactory work, which would be a C under the letter grading system.
Some colleges allow C-minus work to pass as satisfactory, Koch said. But it shouldn’t be considered that way, she added.
The Medical School and Law School are subject to national grading standards and would be exempt from the new University policy.
Helen Phin, president of the Minnesota Student Association, said the policy is a good one.
“I think it’s time we have a uniform policy,” she said.
During discussions held in MSA and among students and others, Phin said she heard many students discussing the benefits of a pluses and minuses grading system as opposed to a straight A through F system.
While discussion was pushed back in the University Senate because of the need for dialogue on other issues such as the change to a semester system and proposed revisions to the tenure code, Phin said she thought the timeline provided an adequate opportunity for discussion.
“A lot of voices were heard,” she said.
If any campus decides not to go along with the policy, the University Senate must make a decision on how to deal with the campus’s position.