SGA discusses finding stability in plus/minus grading system

Editor’s note: This article was edited for accuracy at 12:51 p.m. March 9.

The Student Government Association is trying to adjust discrepancies in the plus/minus grading system, an SGA representative said.

The system was implemented three years ago, but not all professors use it. Senior political science and English major Carlton Alexander, SGA Academic Affairs chair, said this stratification led to grade discrepancies, causing concern for students.

“I have probably six or seven syllabus examples of just kind of random grading by the professor,” Alexander said. “And they set their own standards. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s showing there’s no level of accountability across the department, and we need to figure out something to do with that.”

Alexander said he started compiling syllabi to prove specific grade discrepancies. In two syllabi from the same college, one lists an A as a 93, while the other lists an A as a 96. Alexander said SGA representatives plan to meet with the Faculty Senate to discuss options for improving grade equality within departments.

Faculty Senate Chairman Arthur Busbey said grade discrepancies have not yet been presented to the Faculty Senate, but he said that should those concerns be brought to its attention, the senate would look into re-calibrating parts of the plus/minus system. Busbey, an associate professor of geology, said that because faculty were responsible for bringing about the plus/minus system, they would be open to suggestions for improvement.

Nowell Donovan, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, said there is always variation in grading and there is never going to be a standardized grading system.

“I think if you make it too formula-driven, you will probably regret it because you won’t get the same quality of teaching because professors won’t feel it’s their course anymore,” he said.

Alexander said the plus/minus system also has benefits. He said it makes the university more academically competitive with other universities and decreases grade inflation.

“People are perfectionists here, and they need to realize college is hard,” Alexander said. “If you make a B or an A minus, that is a great grade.”

Donovan said he doesn’t believe the plus/minus system is detrimental to student’s GPAs.

“I really don’t think that it’s in students’ best interests to keep dodging difficult courses,” he said.

But some students aren’t looking for the easy way out. Grant Gary, a senior finance major, said he believed a student’s grade point average can affect job prospects.

“At least in the business school that’s trying to be considered one of the top business schools in the country, it really hurts students overall going forward beyond college having a lower GPA,” he said. “Not necessarily because they did worse, but because they were on a plus/minus grading system.”

Alexander said, like it or not, the plus/minus system is here to stay.

David Bedford, a Faculty Senate member and an instructor in the Department of Spanish and Hispanic Studies, said that although he uses the plus/minus grading system, he would prefer a straight A-F system.

“The reason for that is that we are evaluating a broad set of abilities that develop slowly and that has to do with communication, and it doesn’t make any sense really to divide up people into finer categories for us,” he said. “(But) I can understand the need for it in other disciplines.”

Watch the TCU News Now plus/minus system report.