So long to C-

Dec 042007
Authors: Aaron Hedge

Following an hour and a half of heated debate, the Faculty Council voted 27 to 23 in favor of striking C-, D+ and D- from all programs at the university. The reason for the proposal was to ease consistency woes between different sections of classes.

In the old system, two students taking the same class in different sections who earn the same percentage might end up with different GPAs.

A student earning a 70 percent in a class with a teacher who uses plus minus grading would receive a 1.667 for that class and have to take it again. But a student in another section of the same class earning a 70 percent with a teacher who doesn’t use plus or minus grading would pass.

The same measure was defeated in Wednesday night’s student government meeting.

“They didn’t think that was necessarily going to solve a problem,” said ASCSU President Katie Gleeson.

Some instructors agreed, saying that the proposed measure doesn’t address the real issue, which they say is the faculty’s inherent option to use the plus or minus system.

Others said instructors should have the authority to use their discretion and decide the grade earned by the student.

Finance and real estate professor Tim Gallagher even said that if the council adopted a universal policy, he wouldn’t obey it.

“If this lobby were to pass today a requirement that everyone must use pluses and minuses, I’m gonna turn in grades to my department next year without any pluses or minuses,” he said. “And when my department chair calls me in, I’m gonna say there was no one there on the border . (that) I had a quad-modal distribution.”

During the meeting, several amendments were proposed to the measure, all of them scrutinized intensely. Only one amendment went to a vote, where it was overwhelmingly defeated.

David Greene, occupational therapy professor, said it would be better to strike minus grades from the system because of the general inconsistency of the system.

He presented several overheads that outlined ambiguous syllabi, one of them using a 10-point system that said above a 70 percent is a C, etc., but went on to say plus or minus grading would be used in the course.

Greene said this causes confusion between the student’s understanding of their grade and the grade they receive on their transcript.

“We think it’s interpreted in the low-C range, but there’s no misunderstanding in the transcript level . a C- given in a course could be a C+ on the transcript,” he said. “That means that a student with all Cs and one C- at graduation won’t graduate because they’ll be on academic probation.”

He went on to say the same is true for students on the verge of graduate school eligibility or a 4.0 GPA in the B and A levels.

Civil engineering professor Tom Sanders went even further and said all plus or minus grading should be eradicated.

“I think we should eliminate the minuses and the pluses and go back to the way it was when we didn’t have to tweak it every couple of years and spend too damn much time on it,” he said. “I think it works fine with just A, B, C, D, F.”

But social work professor Victor Baez said the real problem lies in that faculty have the liberty to use the plus or minus system as they see fit.

Alan Lamborn, vice provost of Undergraduate Affairs, echoed Baez’s sentiments, presenting a decision by a CSU research panel that studied the topic at other institutions.

“The ideal world would be to get rid of the option to use one system or the other,” he said. “The root of the unfairness is the fact that there are multiple systems being used.”

Lamborn said 75 percent of CSU’s peer institutions use plus or minus grading, but it is not clear what percentage of them require faculty use it.

Advocates of the plus or minus system argue that a student who averages 89 percent is a far cry from the student who averages 80 percent. Without plus or minus grading, there would be no distinction between the two students’ transcripts.

Gleeson said the measure will help the problem, but is far from being a full solution.

-Assistant News Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at

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