MU panel debates plus/minus grades

Faculty wants to clarify handbook’s language.
Friday, February 25, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:51 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

MU’s grading system came under scrutiny at Thursday’s Faculty Council meeting, as some schools disagreed with language in the Faculty Handbook that suggests professors must award grades on a plus/minus scale.

The Faculty Handbook says faculty are “expected” to use the plus/minus system, and this wording has been interpreted as saying the system is required.

“When this all started, the students were very much opposed to the plus/minus grading system,” said council member David Schenker. “I am very much for it — having A through F is such a blunt tool.”

The council also voted for a resolution supporting UM System President Elson Floyd and heard a report from the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee.

Council member Jenice Prather-Kinsey raised the grading concern on behalf of the College of Business, where a vote indicated the majority of the college did not support the plus/minus system. The council suggested that the handbook’s language change to say the plus/minus system is the norm, but faculty could use their best academic judgment in measuring a student’s performance.

But interim Provost Lori Franz said an optional system would complicate the measuring of students' performance, because professional schools require colleges to indicate whether the GPA is based on a plus/minus scale.

“If I had a preference, I would suggest we either abolish the plus/minus grading system or reinstate it,” she said.

To change the wording of the handbook or grading policy would require a vote of the entire faculty, not just the council.

After debating the issue for more than 15 minutes, the council decided to return to the discussion at its next meeting, after members have time to get feedback from the faculty members they represent.

The council also received a report from February’s meeting of the Intercampus Faculty Council, which comprises faculty from all four campuses in the UM system. The intercampus council approved a resolution supporting Floyd’s active stance on issues that pertain to UM.

“We’re recognizing he’s a president that says what’s clearly right, and if faculty are ready to support him, I don’t think that support would hurt,” said Eddie Adelstein, a member of Faculty Council and the Intercampus Faculty Council. Faculty Council voted to support this resolution. Gail Ludwig, chairwoman of the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, updated the council on the committee’s work, focusing on the performance of athletes compared with other students on campus.

This comes in light of new NCAA requirements concerning the academic performance of athletes. An academic progress rate will work as a report card to measure athletes’ work in the classroom. Programs will lose scholarships for poor academic work.

Ludwig said she did not think the new regulations would affect MU as much as it would other institutions, as MU already graduates student-athletes at a relatively high rate.

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