Dec 092007
Authors: Aaron Hedge

Next fall, CSU professors will no longer have the authority to award students the grades C-, D+ or D- under a new policy the Faculty Council implemented Tuesday night.

The measure was hotly debated in Tuesday’s Council meeting, many professors advising different changes and giving this one the shaft. Some teachers say the 27-23 vote in favor of the proposal was a mistake, others that it was the right thing to do, and some even said it was a waste of time.

The reason for the proposal, teachers said, was that the current grading system is inconsistent.

If two students taking the same class in different sections each got a 72 percent and one of the teachers used minuses and the other didn’t, the student with the teacher who used minuses would have to retake the class, while the other student wouldn’t.

A C- equals 1.667 — a failing grade in university policy — on a student’s grade point average.

The Colorado State University System Board of Governors has no say in the decision, as it is a change to the CSU General Catalog and has no effect on Faculty Council policy. Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Alan Lamborn said he has informed the board about the change.

Lamborn said the policy will fix the biggest part of the problem, but that there will never be a grading scale that is satisfactory across the university.

The problem, Lamborn said, is that there isn’t a comprehensive measure that all teachers must follow.

But others say that if a universal policy were implemented, it would be almost impossible to enforce.

“You’d almost have to set up an administrative detective system,” said John Straayer, a political science professor who voted against the new policy in Tuesday’s meeting.

Straayer uses plusses and minuses because it works for him.

“I just think it’s more precise way to grade, a fairer way,” he said

But he said a policy forcing every teacher to use plus or minus grading would not be well-received by CSU’s large population of professors who teach such a wide variety of topics.

Tim Gallagher, finance and real estate professor echoed Sraayer’s sentiments, saying the scope of different classes and teaching styles at CSU require a flexible policy that allows for personal discretion in grading.

“In my own class, I have to ask the question, are these people . ready to do upper-level work in finance?” Gallagher said. “If the answer is no, I give them a D or an F and they don’t go on.”

While the overwhelming majority of faculty members at CSU knows that a change was necessary, most say the Faculty Council’s decision helped, but didn’t quite get the job done.

An increasing number of colleges use a plus or minus grading system. Of the 35 U.S. institutions that changed their grading policies in the past five years, eight percent eradicated plusses or minuses, while the remaining 92 percent added them.

Of CSU’s 24 peer institutions, 18 f them use plusses and minuses.

The new policy is step in the right direction, Lamborn said, but the issue is so complex that there may never be a comprehensive solution.

“It’s not a perfect policy,” he said. “But it does fix the spot where the combination of those policies have the greatest possibilities of unfairness.”

Assistant News Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at

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