Plus/minus grading gets final approval at University Council

By Felix Sarver

An appeal to let students have more input on the plus-minus grading policy failed at a University Council meeting Wednesday.

Student Association (SA) members put together a petition for an appeal after the plus-minus grading policy was not vetoed at a Nov. 7 UC meeting. The appeal was unsuccessful after a 28-22 vote at the Wednesday meeting. According to NIU’s bylaws, actions by the UC can be appealed with petitions consisting of five percent or 500 members of any constituency, like faculty or students.

NIU President John Peters said he received the petition to appeal UC’s decision on Nov. 16. and talked with Jerry Blakemore, vice president and general counsel, for legal consultation on the petition.

“This is certainly new to me,” Peters said.

According the agenda, Blakemore said the declination of the UC to veto the plus-minus grading policy represents a tacit approval, which makes it an appealable action.

The plus-minus grading policy was placed on the meeting agenda as a motion to be reconsidered. A two-thirds vote was needed for reconsideration.

Cason Snow, Undergraduating Coordinating Council (UCC) representative, said student input was gathered for the plus-minus grading policy. He said students had representatives on the Admissions Policies and Academic Standards Committee (APASC) and UCC. A memo asking for feedback on the policy were also given out, Snow said. Student representatives on the committee are chosen by colleges and do not have to report to the SA.

Nick Bender, SA director of governmental affairs, asked how there could have been sufficient student input if not many students were aware of the grading policy. He said he was not there to destroy or delay the policy but to propose a veto so the policy could receive more student input. Art professor Jeff Kowalski said the policy has been through a great deal of research. He asked if the policy would continue to be researched on top of the research already done.

Vice Provost Anne Birberick, who is also a UCC member, said APASC wanted to get feedback on the policy from the SA because student representatives on those committees were not obligated to report to the SA. She said she has no investment in this policy but said the UCC did give consideration toward student input on the plus-minus grading policy, and a compromised version of the policy was the result.

“I have to say in my professional life I’ve never seen a grading policy look like this before,” Biberick said.