Faculty members of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts yesterday approved two changes to students’ official transcripts, which are likely to go into effect next year.
Faculty voted to add the median grade of classes onto LSA students’ transcripts, and they approved a measure to omit the “W” on first-semester students’ transcript if they choose to withdraw from a class after the drop/add deadline.
LSA will begin listing the median grade on transcripts for classes that have 10 or more students. The median grade will only be listed on transcripts for LSA students.
The change seeks to provide more information to employers and graduate schools that look at transcripts, said Bob Megginson, LSA associate dean for undergraduate education.
“I believe there will be a positive effect on everyone because people will believe the University of Michigan is providing more information to make its grading more transparent,” he said.
The change seeks to make LSA students’ grades in particular classes and their overall grade point averages more meaningful. Recently, many employers have been devaluing GPAs out of a perception that they are inflated by universities across the nation.
While members of the LSA curriculum committee say the change will counteract grade inflation by making grades more meaningful, Megginson said the changes are not aimed specifically at curbing grade inflation. He said this proposal could encourage some professors to raise their grades to be in line with other professors in their department, or vice versa.
“It is not the job of this proposal to legislatively modify someone’s grading system,” Megginson said.
He said the current system that only includes an individual’s grades obscures information that is important for students to understand how they performed in a course relative to their classmates. That distinction would make transcripts more relevant to evaluation by employers and graduate schools.
The passed proposal mirrors a similar policy at Columbia University. At Columbia, student transcripts list the percentage of students who received a certain grade in their classes.
“I never heard a negative comment from students (regarding the policy),” said Jayne Brownell, referring to her six years on Columbia’s faculty before becoming director of the University’s academic career center.
But plenty of negative comments were heard from some faculty members last night, especially that this effort may make high-performing students’ grades seem less impressive than they are.
“I think if there’s the potential for misinterpretation that is a negative,” said Robert Pachella, professor of psychology and a member of the curriculum committee said.
Pachella proposed an amendment and argued that the proposal should only affect classes with 20 or more students, saving more rigorous seminars from the new grade listing. Pachella’s amendment was defeated, possibly because the higher standard would have excluded too many LSA students.
The other proposal the LSA faculty approved is that the “W” that appears on a transcript after a student withdraws from a class after the drop/add deadline will be excluded for first-semester students.
The impetus for such a change was to help new students who were staying in a class that was hurting them, but were too afraid to drop it because they feared a “W” on their transcripts, Megginson said.
The drop/add date would not change, only the mark on a transcript. Students still would not be able to join classes after the deadline.
Both proposals will be detailed during implementation discussions that will include members of the faculty, the curriculum committee and LSA Student Government. If any of the decisions cannot be made during these discussions, they will come back to LSA faculty.