Grading system overhaul for NKU

Northern Kentucky University’s Faculty Senate voted 18-10 to adopt a plus/minus grading system at its meeting Sept. 19.

Bill Oliver, Faculty Senate president, said it is not yet established when the system will go into effect.

The new grading system will be based on A, A minus, B plus, B, B minus, C plus, C, C minus, D plus, D and F.

The plus or minus adds or subtracts, respectively, one-third of a quality point to a grade.

Before the vote, the senate voiced opinions and concerns of the departments on campus as well as individual problems with the plus/minus grading system.

Ed Brewer, vice-president of the Faculty Senate and a faculty member from Chase Law school, said the school has been using the system for almost eight years and finds it “to be wonderful.”

While Brewer is in favor of the system, other professors were not passionate about the change.

Communications faculty member Penny Summers said the communications department is divided.

She said she doesn’t “fully understand the reasoning” for changing the grading system.

Summers argued that with the new system, average would no longer be a C-student.

“A ‘C’ is suppose to be average, whether it’s a C minus or C plus,” she said. “With this scale, average is not good enough.”

Certain departments on campus require students to maintain a 2.0 average in order to graduate. Summers was concerned for students who, under the new system, will receive a C minus and be awarded a 1.667 instead of a 2.0 for a C.

“The B students seem to benefit from this. The others seem to be harmed by it; that’s problematic,” Summers said.

While Summers voiced opinions against the grade change, other senate members voiced their want for the change.

Kevin Kirby, of the department of computer science, said, “by adopting this policy, we’re trying to get the highest resolution possible” and it would be the most accurate representation of a student’s grade.

Brewer also argued that the system would provide accuracy.

“It gives more specific and accurate information about how students are doing,” Brewer said. “People who care about what they’re getting are going to care about that extra one-third of a grade point.”

Physics and geology Professor John Filaseta voiced heavily against the accuracy argument. He related the situation to advice he gives his students. He said in physics, he tells his students just because it is a precise measurement, doesn’t mean it is an accurate one.

With a science course, unless a scale is developed by the professors, Filaseta said there will be a “fuzzy area for student grades.” Whether a student will qualify for a B or B plus will have to be justifiable.

Ban Mittal of management and marketing said he feels with the new grading system, he will spend more time defending to a student why they receive a B minus rather than a B.

“With the new system, I would move toward more objective tests (instead of) essays,” he said.

The Professional Concerns Committee first proposed the grading system change in the spring 2005 semester.

After amendments to the proposal, it was tabled until the September meeting. Oliver said in the meeting that the committee first proposed the plus/minus system to distinguish between students who make an 89 percent and an 80 percent in a class.

Professors aren’t the only ones with opinions about the plus/minus grading system change.

Josh Ruth, a senior communications and political science major, said that he feels the administration doesn’t care about what students want.

He said he also doesn’t like that the faculty “handed down judgments that effect the whole student body without consulting a single student.”

Ruth also thinks that the only people who will benefit from the new system will be those who fall into the B plus category.

“Personally, it will hamper my GPA in the long-run,” he said.

Senior radio-television major Bob Frodge also thinks the administration isn’t doing its part.

“It’s the administration’s duty to find out what the students feel and want, rather than themselves,” Frodge said.

Senior history major David Green, who transferred from the University of Cincinnati this year, said that he prefers NKU’s previous grading system.

“I’m all for the pluses, it’s the minuses that I’m worried about,” he said.

Green liked the four step grading system better because “an A is an A, and B is a B. It gets too complicated when you start adding in all those extra values.”

Randy Water, junior public relations major, said that the change would not directly affect him.

He said, “I have friends who really care about their GPA and they might be upset. So it does have pros and cons.

I think students who are under the old system should not have to change because I have been using for so long it would be unnecessary stress that I don’t need.”

Zach Lieb, on the other hand, likes the idea of a plus/minus grading system. The sophomore criminal justice major said, “I think it would be good; it gives teachers more of an option. It’s not fair for a student who earns a 99 to receive the same grade as someone who gets a 90.”

While Lieb is worrying about fairness in class, Gretchen Buten, a secondary education major, is worried about extra curricular activities.

“NKU’s sororities require that you have a 2.5 GPA and that could mean losing a lot of potentially great girls because of a new grading system,” said Buten, a member of Phi Sigma Sigma.