Tensions run high in grading system debate

It’s been more than three years, but the battle about USF’s student grading policy continues. The end seems nowhere in sight, largely because the Student Government Senate and the Faculty Senate cannot reach a consensus as to how the problem should be handled.

Glen Besterfield, chairman for the undergraduate council, said the issue currently being reviewed by both senates is whether an A- grade should be worth 4.0 quality points instead of the current 3.67 quality points.

During the previous academic year, the Student Government Senate wrote a resolution that would raise the quality points of an A+ to 4.33 instead of 4.0, Besterfield said. The resolution was denied.

“Last year, they wanted the A+ to be a 4.33, but they didn’t get that,” Besterfield said. “Now they are coming to us and saying they want the A- to be a 4.0. It is just a lowering of standards at the university, and all they want is higher GPAs.”

Michael Berman, Student Government Senate president, said the Student Government Senate views the issue differently. There are two primary concerns the Senate has about the USF grading policy.

Berman said the first concern is that students are being penalized by the current grading system. He said students receiving an A+ get the same amount of quality points as an A, but students receiving an A- are penalized by getting fewer quality points.

“If you get a B-, you can make up the loss of a grade through getting a B+, but with As, you don’t have that luxury,” Berman said.

The second concern is not that all USF professors use the plus/minus grading system.

Berman said this means that students can enroll in the same course, receive the same education, achieve the same score but end up with different GPAs.

Faculty Senate President Greg Paveza said during the 2002 fall term an ad hoc committee was specifically created to look into the USF grading policy issue. He said it consisted of five members, three from the undergraduate council and two from the graduate council.

Paveza said the ad hoc committee decided not to approve the proposal for raising the quality points of an A- grade. He said the Senate was upset about the issue and the Faculty Senate asked the committee to review the issue again.

Besterfield said one of the main problems the Faculty Senate had with this proposal is that it would cause grade inflation.

“This A- issue becoming a 4.0 could have not a great effect, but it’s going to raise the overall GPA of this university, and we already have issues of grade inflation,” Besterfield said.

Besterfield said he also sees this problem as having a tremendous snowball effect in the future.

“The next student government that comes along next academic year is going to say why isn’t a B- worth three grade points,” Besterfield said.

Berman said there is a lot of tension between the Faculty Senate and the Student Government Senate. The tension, he said, is due to the way the Faculty Senate handled the situation and proposes to handle it in the future. He said there are several irregularities in the way the Faculty Senate handled the grade policy proposals.

Berman said the first problem was that the ad hoc committee set up by the Faculty Senate did not have information on the proposal when they came to make their decision.

“They just sat around for 30 minutes with no information and didn’t know what to do,” Berman said.

Also, Berman said some of the members of the ad hoc committee did not volunteer for the committee and were forced to be there. According to him, the chairman of the respective committees, undergraduate and graduate, forced some of their members to be on the committee.

Berman said one of the biggest concerns about the ad hoc committee was that the chairman of the committee, Sara Mandell, tried to enforce a confidentiality agreement among the members. He said the members of the committee were told not to release any information about the committee meetings to the public. This, Berman said, is a violation of the Florida Sunshine law.

“In my opinion, that is definite misconduct,” Berman said.

Berman said Mandell admitted on the floor of a Faculty Senate Executive Committee meeting that she had tried to enforce a confidentiality agreement. He said Paveza decided not to pursue the issue and tried to have the proposal process concerning the USF grade policy restarted from scratch. Berman said the senate has problems with restarting the process.

Besterfield planned to meet with one of the senators, Christopher Cook, on Monday to discuss the Student Government’s concerns and hopefully resolve some issues.