The UTSA Student Government Association (SGA) responded quickly to the administration’s plan to switch to a Plus/Minus grading system beginning Fall 2011.
If the registrar and the Office of Information Technology can implement the new system, UTSA students may experience a change in their GPA as final grades are submitted next year.
In response to the news of the plus/minus grading policy, the SGA called an emergency meeting to compose a formal resolution to show discontent with the decision to change the grading system.
SGA vice president Nicole Munoz said that the SGA’s rapid response was prompted by the lack of communication between the Faculty Senate and the SGA.
“In the previous spring semester, we were briefly told that the plus/minus grading system was a topic that Academic Affairs might be researching, but that was the extent of any type of notification we received,” Munoz said.
“Like many other students, SGA found out about this enactment through the article in The Paisano. This was unnerving to many of our senators. As a result, 23 of our senators drafted a resolution in opposition to the passage of the plus/minus grading system.”
The resolution that the SGA drafted will be signed by SGA president Derek Trimm and sent to the Office of the Provost.
Trimm explained that the SGA, much like the Faculty Senate, is only an advisory body to the provost; however, the provost is likely to listen to recommendations that the SGA has to make about major changes at UTSA.
“We’re going to be getting some kind of feedback from the student body on the issue, so we can start making recommendations,” Trimm said. “Instead of just striking it out completely, we can make recommendations on how we can make this something that doesn’t hurt the students.”
The SGA resolution, the Subjective-Objective Grading Act of 2010, lists the grievances that student government has against the impending policy. These grievances range from SGA not being informed properly of the change to the possibility of grade disassocation between professors who use the plus/minus system and those who do not. The resolution ends with a stout ‘we don’t support this’ message to the provost.
Although the new policy is slated for implementation next fall, there are still ongoing discussions among faculty and administration—and now the SGA—which may result in the revising of the plus/minus system at UTSA.
“The Faculty Senate has passed it; the provost and president have approved it, but there are still a lot of questions,” Dr. Lawrence Williams, vice provost and dean of undergraduate studies, said. “We just got around to informing the faculty a couple weeks ago.”
Williams explained that the majority of questions surrounding the new plus/minus system are focused on how the different departments are going to react to the policy.
“If a department’s going to decide, ‘well, I’m going to go to the Faculty Senate and say our requirements should not default to C- or better, they should be C or better,'” Williams said. “We need to flesh out some of that before we go to the students and say this is our new policy.”
The change of grading policy for a university the size of UTSA has historically not been an easy transition among Texas universities. In 2005, The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) had attempted to shift to the plus/minus system; however, the proposal was met with inconclusive evidence in research conducted by faculty and opposition by their student government. Senior vice provost for UTA, Dr. Michel Moore, stated the reasons behind UTA’s abandonment of the plus/minus.
“There was a belief that some schools around the country had plus/minus and that it would allow faculty to give more refined grades,” Moore said. “After we examined it, there was no compelling argument for moving in that direction.”
In addition to the lack of compelling evidence for UTA, the student government composed a resolution denouncing the use of a plus/minus system. They cited an attempt by Eastern Kentucky to change to the plus/minus system, which was later overturned in favor of the original grading system for that school.
Moore warned that making the plus/minus an option for instructors was not reasonable.
“It doesn’t strike me as fair,” Moore said. “Let’s say you have two people taking the same course but different classes, and both kids get an 87 in both classes. One student gets a B+ and the other guy gets just a B. They’ve had the same performance in that class yet they’re getting different grades.”
UTSA provost John Frederick has a different view.
“Well, I think it will cut both ways,” Dr. John Frederick said in regards to the ‘same numerical grade but different final grade’ analogy.
“Frankly, I don’t think in the end that there will be any advantage or disadvantage based on those systems other than it will be a little bit finer distinction if an instructor uses the pluses and minuses. There will be as many students that, say, earn a B+ instead of a B as there would be students that would earn a B- instead of a B.”
Although much of the questions about the policy are still being answered by faculty and the SGA, the Office of the Provost is not ruling out having to modify to the plan.
“It might change,” Frederick said. “From what I understand, the resolution does not allow for an A+ and I would like to add the A+ to that.”