Faculty votes today to pursue change in grading system

Peter Gillette

The faculty will vote today to decide whether or not the Committee on Instruction should continue to pursue its proposal to change the current grading system. A faculty proposal circulated by the Committee on Instruction focuses on the inequalities between a B+ and an A-, and would seek to make the difference between an A and A- equal to the difference between A- and B+.

At a special LUCC meeting on Tuesday, LUCC President Cole Delaney announced that Lawrence is in the small minority of schools who use the current system.

A change, however, would not affect current GPAs. The registrar, Ann Norman, stressed that any change would only affect future grades, and would not be implemented retroactively.

Faculty members were polled this past week regarding the matter, but most students first became aware of the issue upon receiving a voicemail about the topic Monday morning from Delaney, who—along with LUCC Vice President Cene Ketcham—sits on the faculty’s Committee on Instruction.

They called a special LUCC meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss and explain the matter. As no resolution was passed, the function of the meeting was largely explanatory. Delaney and Ketcham told the representatives they also wanted to gauge student opinion in order to vote on behalf of the student body today.

At that meeting, Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell stressed that Friday’s vote is not a vote for or against changing the grading system, nor will it serve as a faculty referendum on the current proposal put forward by the Committee on Instruction. Rather, the vote will reflect the faculty’s consent to have the committee examine the issue further.

The current grade system is based on .25 point differentials: an A, for example, is worth 4.00; an A- 3.75; a B+ 3.25; a B 3.00.

The new scale, however, would even out the differentials, dividing the point system into threes: an A would still be worth 4, an A- 3.66 (.09 points less than the current system), a B+ worth 3.33 (.12 more points than the current system), and a B still 3.00.

“It’s important here not to think of ‘Oh, do I get more “A” minuses?’ or ‘Do I get more “B” pluses?’ Any opinions you come to that way will have much less validity,” Delaney cautioned LUCC reps. Much of the discussion Tuesday centered around whether an A- ought to hold, proportionally, more weight than a B+.

Uniformity among universities was also of considerable concern to many delegates Tuesday, important especially to some who were worried about grad school applications, which alter Lawrence GPAs to fit the common scale anyway.

The general consensus reached during Tuesday’s meeting was that an examination of the current grading system, which Lawrence has used since 1984, would be beneficial, if only to make faculty more aware of the current system.

“Very few of the current faculty were teaching at Lawrence in 1984,” Delaney said. He and Ketcham told LUCC that some faculty in the Committee on Instruction weren’t even aware of the effect a B+ has, versus an A-.

At press time, neither Gerald Seaman nor Anne Norman could be reached for comment.