Faculty Senate considers changes to grading system


Patricia Henry (middle), foreign language and literature professor, raises her hand in support of the “Plus-Minus” Bill proposed to the Faculty Senate Wednesday in the Sky Room of the Holmes Student Center.

By Jessica Sabbah

NIU got one step closer to implementing a plus/minus grading system Wednesday afternoon.

“The [Faculty] Senate voted to recommend to make a change in the NIU grading system to the plus/minus system,” said Faculty Senate President Alan Rosenbaum.

The new grading system would affect a student’s grade point average by accounting for pluses and minuses. Under the current system, a B- and a B+ would register as 3.0 on a student’s GPA. The proposed system would distinguish Nicole Gault | Northern Star ; a B- would be worth a 2.67, while a B+ would be a 3.33.

The system would still be capped at 4.0, and a D- would technically not exist, as the grading scale would go from D+ to D to F.

After much discussion over concerns of some faculty over adopting the system, 36 Faculty Senate members voted in favor of the change. Three voted against, and four abstained.

Now that Faculty Senate has approved it, the proposal will move to the Undergraduate Coordinating Council, the Graduate Council and the Admissions Policies and Academic Standards Committee.

After which, the University Council would have to approve the adoption of the plus/minus system for it to be implemented at NIU.

One concern raised by senators was the potential cost of implementing the system.

Art professor Jeff Kowalski urged caution that any cost is a concern in this day and age.

“This will have an impact on a number of different catalogues and policies at the university,” Kowalski said.

The cost is still unknown if the university were to adopt the new system. Rosenbaum urged Faculty Senate members to vote independently of the costs at this time.

Other concerns brought up included the effect it would have on students whose major requires a C or better, whether it would be optional for faculty to adopt the system and the ability to make the distinction between each grade.

Rosenbaum said the Faculty Senate was mindful while choosing how to make their recommendation considering costs and the effects it would have on students.

“The system that was proposed, the faculty thought would not have a negative impact on GPAs,” Rosenbaum said.

The senators were asked to poll their departments on whether they were for or against the system change. With more than half of all departments at NIU included, 21 departments reported votes by faculty prior to the meeting. Of those 21 departments, 201 faculty voted in favor of the grading system while 87 opposed the change.

“This is the first time we’ve had a better idea of how the full faculty feels about this issue,” Rosenbaum said, adding that since not all departments were included, not all faculty were counted.

Rosenbaum also assured that students would have an opportunity to give input about the new grading system.

A report from the Committee on Resources, Space and Budgets from its Jan. 25 meeting was also presented during the meeting.

David Goldblum, assistant professor of geography, presented the report which included an update from Eddie Williams, executive vice president chief of operations, regarding the budget situation in Illinois and at NIU.

The report listed the state debt at about $16-17 billion. The state still owes NIU about $77 million for the current fiscal year, being slightly worse from this time last year.

The state also still owes NIU $12 million for MAP grants for the fall 2010 semester, which NIU already paid to students using internal funds.