6PLUSMINUS (Print Only)

The Board of Trustees has approved the proposed plus/minus grading system. Although the new system will be a school-wide policy, professors still have academic freedom in deciding whether or not to implement the scale in their classes.

The system was approved on Feb. 19 and will go into effect for Fall 2015 at St. Edward’s University.

“It’s not a policy, and it can’t be mandated, so it’s really just having an extra drop down menu. When we go to assign grades now, we’ll have the option of using pluses and minuses if we want to, down through the C+, but there’s no policy that says that (we) have to,” Russell Frohardt, spokesman for the ad hoc committee on the plus/minus grading system, said.

There was one slight issue with transparency, however, because the Academic Council held an impromptu vote via email to amend the plus/minus proposal as they had approved it on Feb. 2.

The email, which was sent out by Vice President for Academic Affairs Mary Boyd on Feb. 6, asked for all 23 voting members of the Academic Council to cast their vote in favor of or opposed to a new provision to the plus/minus proposal.

“(In the provision,) the C-, D+ and D- were removed,” Frohardt said. “The reason that it was given to the committee was that the deans, there was a provision in there that classes that are currently being passed with a C, the initial recommendation was that you be able to pass with what is now a C-, but since a C- is now less than a 2.0, that creates problems for people for academic standing and financial aid. The deans did not support that idea, so we had to revise that provision and then send it back through Academic Council for a second vote.”

The vote was conducted via email so that the plus/minus grading system would get resolved before the Board of Trustees meeting.

“The board was meeting the following week, so we couldn’t wait for another in-person meeting if we wanted to get to the board, and if we missed this board meeting then (the plus/minus grading system) wouldn’t go into effect next year,” Frohardt said.

Seven voted yes, five voted no and two abstained. Voting quorum was met, and the motion passed in both the Academic Council and the Graduate Council.

From there, the initiative had to pass through the vice president for Academic Affairs and the president of the university to make sure they were both in agreement with the councils’ decision.

“The Oversight and Academic Affairs Committee passed it and presented it then as a recommendation to the full board, and the full board passed it,” Sister Donna Jurick, staff liaison to the Institutional Oversight and Academic Affairs Committee, said.

In some cases, the Board of Trustees is not required to approve policies.

“In this case, because it was a university wide initiative, it did require the Board of Trustees approval,” student representative for the Academic Council Jonathan Edwards, said.

The next step in the plus/minus grading system is educating faculty and students about how this will affect future grades.

“I’ll update the faculty this Friday at the faculty senate meeting, and then I still have to work with the vice president for Academics on how we want to (promote) this community wide,” Frohardt said.

Because adherence to the new system will be optional, deans will have the option whether or not to create an internal policy for their school, but most of the deans opted out of creating any additional policies.

The deans of the School of Education, the New College and the School of Behavioral and Social Sciences expressed support of the new grading system. Professors in each school will still have autonomy over which scale they use.

“This system will benefit our students by allowing faculty the ability to differentiate more precisely among varying levels of student performance,” Professor Helene Caudill, dean of the New College, said.

In the Bill Munday School of Business, Dean Nancy Schreiber said that there is no need to create a new policy within the school since the business school approved the system as it is.

Faculty seem to be generally accepting of the plus/minus grading system.

“I do plan to adopt this grading policy next semester to allow more fine-tuned grading for papers and tests and such,” Jack Green Musselman, a philosophy professor, said.

Alex Barron, director of Freshman Studies, said she’s “fine with the plus/minuses, but doesn’t have a strong opinion either way.”

There is not a unanimous opinion among students either. Less than a quarter of students are in favor of the plus/minus system, according to a survey put out by the Student Government Association in the fall semester that received 347 verified responses from students.

Anthony Longoria, a pre-med psychology major, is in favor of the new system.

“I think the plus/minus system will be good because it allows St. Edward’s to be on par with other competitive universities,” Longoria said. “Also, a B+ and a B- are completely different grades that deserve different GPA values.”

Amanda Gonzalez, a freshman English writing and rhetoric major, also thinks the new system will add a competitive edge to students applying for graduate programs.

“Initially it might be a little intimidating, but there seems to be a lot of positives that will be noticeable in the long term future in regards to graduate school,” Gonzalez said.

Some students are concerned that the inconsistency with using the plus/minus grading system might create issues of unfairness among students.

“If not all professors are going to be required to mandate it, then it’s not going to be even, because a student who’s doing well in a class that a professor is not including the rule, they could be doing better than a student who’s doing well in a class with another professor who is using the plus/minus,” Evelyn Patino, a junior international business major, said.

The original proposal for the new system cited SGA’s support of the plus/minus system from 2007, but SGA has since passed a bill asserting that this support is outdated.