Faculty Senate votes to allow ‘minus’ grades

By Daniel C. Houston
Staff Writer

The Faculty Senate voted to recommend allowing professors to award “minus” grades — like A-minus, B-minus, etc. — in addition to the traditional plus grading system, leaving the provost’s office with the final say over whether to change university grading policy.

The Senate made the recommendation during its Tuesday meeting following a presentation from Dr. Douglas Henry, associate professor of philosophy and co-chair of the University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee.

“Having a minus-grade option alongside the plus-grade option first and foremost will allow faculty to more accurately represent students’ academic accomplishments,” Henry told the Lariat after the closed meeting. “So if you want to think about it in terms of giving credit where credit’s due, having that option will allow that to happen.”

The Senate, however, is still considering the implications of such a system, according to its chair Dr. Rosalie Beck, professor of religion.

Some members, she said, expressed concern about whether a C-minus grade would still grant students the 2.0 grade point average needed for credit within their major fields of study.

“We will recommend to the provost that minuses now be included,” Beck said, “but we also hope to recommend GPA equivalents so that a B-plus is this many points and a C-minus is this many points if the professor chooses to give those.”

Beck said the GPA recommendations will likely be determined at Senate’s next meeting in May.

Henry said his committee’s proposal was influenced in part by studying the grading policies of other universities around the nation.

“There is no university that has only pluses as far as we’ve been able to determine,” Henry said. “So another good reason for considering this is observance of best practices in student assessment. We seem to be an outlier and an anomaly, so, one way or another, it seems sound academic policy to have a system that is normal.”

Despite the hesitation of some senators to fully support the proposal as offered, Beck said Henry’s proposal was well researched.

“The University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee that Dr. Henry chairs did a superb job of collecting information and talking through the variations, and they represented the university in a very very fine way, I think,” Beck said. “They did really good work.”

Although the Senate only came to a consensus on the plus-minus grading policy, they also discussed for future consideration making the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement initiative (URSA) a standing committee.

Results from the Faculty Senate elections were finalized Tuesday, although they will not be publicized until today at earliest, Beck said.