Faculty Senate debates plus/minus

Although the chairwoman of the Faculty Senate said earlier this week that she was ready to end discussions on the plus/minus grading system, it continued to be the topic of debate Thursday at the Faculty Senate meeting.The grading system, which was approved 46-8 on Sept. 28 at a faculty assembly meeting, is now in the hands of the provost to approve and send to the University Council for further debate, said Faculty Senate member Andy Fort.

“However, because of the powerful push back we have received from students on the matter, we feel it is not wise to go forward with it now,” Fort said about why the issue is still being discussed among faculty.

Nowell Donovan, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said he recently received a 67-page document of student opinions about the grading system that was compiled by a group of Student Government Association members. The overall opinion in the document was negative, though he thought the students’ comments were thought-provoking.

Our students are very heavily involved in their education, and they are thinking thoughtfully about how this will affect them,” Donovan said.

Donovan stressed to the Faculty Senate that the most important part of TCU is the one-on-one relationship students have with their professors – something he said he thinks may be strained by the grading system issue.

“The worst thing we can do is break that relationship between students and professors,” Donovan said. “We have to be very careful with this issue because there is a lot of emotion involved.”

Bob Neilson, chairman of the Academic Excellence Committee, acknowledged the controversy surrounding the issue when he announced the results of a student-run online poll to the Faculty Senate. The poll revealed that more than 80 percent of students who voted are against the plus/minus system.

“This has become an ‘us verses them’ situation to the students, and it doesn’t need to be at all,” Neilson said.

Fort said what students may not understand is implementing the plus/minus system would not be a big change in TCU’s grading system, but rather an extension of a policy that is already in place.

“To say professors have to grade plus/minus would be the same as forcing professors to give students curves,” Fort said, explaining that professors will have the choice whether or not to grade their students on a plus/minus scale.

Neilson said if students take the initiative to talk to their professors about the system, they will find very little will change in the way they are graded.

Donovan announced to the Faculty Senate that he is planning a Provost Forum in the Student Center Ballroom in the near future to provide a constructive atmosphere for faculty and students to discuss the issue together. He said he will announce the date soon.