Long-debated grading system goes into effect

This semester, a new clause has been added to many syllabi that now includes the new plus/minus grading system.

This is the first year professors will implement the new grading system. However, professors are allowed to use their discretion as to whether or not to use it in their classes. The Board of Trustees voted on the plus/minus grading system on Feb. 19. 

Two out of six of junior Lauren Zambrano’s classes are taught by professors who are not using the new grading system.

She prefers the plus/minus grading scale because points carry more weight within the system. For example, an 89 is now a B plus; under the old system an 89 and 80 were both considered B’s.

However, Zambrano said that a professor’s choice to use the plus/minus system does not have an effect on whether or not she chooses to take a course.

Some students feel that the plus/minus system is unfair because it is not consistently applied.  

“I don’t like the system,” junior Alicia Olivier said. “I have a 4.0 GPA as a junior, and I have worked hard to maintain that. I am willing to continue to work hard, but I want this system to be fair and consistent across course sections.”

Russ Frohardt, president of the faculty senate, said there are no plans to make a distinction about the plus/minus grading system on students’ transcripts.

“Individual faculty members are still free to use the whole grading system if they choose,” he said. “If students brought forward a proposal that requested a distinction for clear reasons, I could take it to the [vice president of Academic Affairs] and Registrar for consideration.”

Sixty-seven percent of faculty members are in favor of the plus/minus system, according to a Student Government Association survey. It comes as no surprise that students are experiencing varying grading systems in their classes.

Professors have their own reasons for choosing to implement the system or not.

“It has the possibility of motivating students throughout the semester,” Associate Dean of Humanities Mary Rist said. “It rewards students appropriately for their effort — especially because there are so many A’s and B’s. It allows for a distinction.”

Not all Cultural Foundations courses must use the plus/minus system, said Professor Laura Hernandez-Ehrisman, course coordinator for the American Experience.  However, because some Cultural Foundations courses are fundamentally the same in all sections — like American Experience — professors have chosen to adopt the same scales to grade fairly.

Todd Onderdonk, a Faculty Senate member, voted to implement the plus/minus system.

Nonetheless, he does not use the system for all of his courses. 

He is using the system in his Freshman Studies Lecture class, Sex, Drugs and Counterculture. 

However, he is not using it for the Capstone course he is teaching this semester because he wants to “gain more experience using the system before trying it with that class.”

Follow Lauren @laurennibarra