University Council vetoes plus/minus grading system

By Felix Sarver

Approved changes to the plus/minus grading system were vetoed at the University Council meeting Wednesday.

The plus/minus grading system, first proposed by Faculty Senate and sent to various university committees for debate and approval, was vetoed 27-19. Four voters abstained. The grading system will now go back to the Undergraduate Coordinating Council (UCC) committee for further review and student input.

During a discussion of the information items brought up during the meeting, Faculty Senate President Alan Rosenbaum noted the minutes for the UCC contained their approval of the changes to the plus/minus grading system made by the Admissions Policies and Academic Standards Committee (APASC). Those changes included adding pluses and minuses to every grade with the exception of A+, C-, Ds and Fs. Rosenbaum said the policy allows for, but does not require, a professor to use the plus/minus system.

If the University Council did not choose to veto the plus/minus grading system, it would become policy and go into effect for the fall 2013 semester.

A motion to return the policy to the UCC for further review was made by Austin Quick, Student Association (SA) Senate speaker. Quick said he looked at schools similar to NIU, like Ball State University, that adopted the plus/minus grading system. Quick said faculty from Ball State University reported they did not feel the system was good, and GPAs had declined.

Quick said more student input was needed for the grading policy. He cited a poll the SA conducted recently to get student opinion of the grading policy; the poll showed more than 400 students opposed to the policy.

“If you’re gonna change grades this drastically, that is something that’ll need more input from the student body as a whole,” Quick said.

Rosenbaum said the process of discussing and debating the plus/minus system was not something done in a haphazard fashion. Many students were present at the meetings where the policy was brought up, and APASC had reviewed the referendum the SA conducted in spring 2011 that gathered student input on the policy.

“There’s been ample opportunity to vet it,” Rosenbaum said.

Western Illinois University reported the plus/minus grading system was flawless, and most Mid-American Conference schools had the system, Rosenbaum said.

Kyle Bak, SA director of Academic Affairs, said there was no student representative present at the April 18 APASC meeting and the Sept. 6 UCC meeting where the policy had been approved.

After the meeting, SA President Delonte LeFlore said he was excited for students to have the opportunity to give their input on the policy.

Rosenbaum said he thinks the students dropped the ball on this issue, and students had plenty of time to attend committee meetings.