Faculty Senate Meeting
Attendees: Henry Scarton, G.P. Peterson, Tamar Gordon,
Patricia Search, Sharon Anderson-Gold, Tom Apple,
Discussion from Student Senate – Michael Borzumate, Grand Marshal and
Mike Goldenberg, Faculty Liaison
Constitution Committee Report –
Announcement of Ballot Amendments – Peter Persans
A motion was made to approve the Minutes of the General Faculty Meeting. After a few minor changes, the Minutes were approved, 12 in favor, none opposed, 1 abstention. The approval of the 2/4 Minutes has been delayed until the next meeting due to a request for more information on Curtis Powell’s presentation.
President Geisler outlined the plan to foster discussion on the Plus/Minus proposal. The executive committee recommended a process similar to that followed for the Core Curriculum Proposal. We now have initiated a website at www.rpi.edu/dept/facsen/2003-2004/issues/grading.htm
Cheryl urged the Senators to speak to their colleagues and students on this topic as well as visit the website to review and/or make comments. An email will go out to students and faculty asking for position statements.
During the March 17 General Faculty Meeting, talking points will be delivered to the faculty to use in discussion with students during Grand Marshal Week. She asked everyone to take time to discuss the talking points and the proposal. She said the Faculty Senate Executive Committee felt that it was feasible to ask for a general vote from faculty by the end of April, but not during the general vote.
Mike Borzumate, Grand Marshal, stated that the Poly would allow space for this topic and an article could be published in 1 ½ to 2 weeks.
Another advantage of the proposed grading system is that students will have a better chance to improve their grades near the end of the semester. Students often ask professors what they need to do to achieve an A. If a student is in the middle of the B range, in order to get an A, they might have to get a 98 on the final. Rather than try to do that, some students do not do any additional work and settle for a B. Under the new proposal, students have a better chance to improve their grade.
Christoph also presented two arguments against the Proposal. He stated that some people ask whether there
will be a negative impact on GPAs.
Christoph stated that he is convinced there will not be. Studies at
Some students felt that perhaps pluses and minuses will affect the psychology of grading. For example, they questioned whether professors will be more likely to bump grades down. Christoph stated that the arbitrariness of where we draw the line is not inherent in the system but more the personal judgment of the faculty which will not change if the plus/minus grading policy is in effect.
· There will be no D- grade for Undergraduate Students and no D for graduate Students.
· Numerical equivalents: A= 4.0, A-=3.67, B+=3.33, B=3.0, etc
· Conditions for probation will be the same as before
· Graduation Requirements will be the same as before
· Start of new system will be in Fall 2004. The registrar can handle this start date and will include a note in the transcript explaining the change to a +/- system.
Christoph clarified that when he says graduate or undergraduate, he means student not class. At one point, the committee considered adding a D grade for graduate students but the lowest passing grade for graduate students will remain a C. The reason the committee decided to end the scale with C is because if a graduate student needs a B to graduate, and if there is a C-, they need two As to compensate for that. The committee felt that the trade-off that people now make, an A for a C, should be the same with new system.
Christoph added that the Committee felt that it was better for the students that truly have outstanding performance be acknowledged with a certificate of distinction. He suggested it is easier to tell people about a certificate of distinction that to tell them to look for an A+ in a transcript.
Christoph reported on an experiment that the Curriculum
Committee conducted. The Committee re-evaluated the courses they taught and
re-graded assuming there was a +/- system in place. The difference was only a couple of
hundredths of a percent.
Christoph stated that he polled people in two of his classes, which included seniors and graduate students, but mostly juniors. The only students who were against the proposal were the 4.0 students. He thought the rest felt they could actually take advantage of this. Gary Gabriele, Dean of Undergraduate Education stated that there are usually about 20-30 4.0 students at graduation.
Mike Borzumate, Grand Marshal, stated that he is concerned that there are no counter-arguments. Christoph said that the committee has resolved to introduce this new grading system and that most of his arguments will be in favor of the proposal.
The Student Senate had discussed this issue with a wide range of students, polling approximately 300 students. The biggest priority among the students is the trade off between the incentive to work harder and the increased stress. It gives the students a reason to do well on the final exam, but on the other hand, they are not sure whether the additional stress is worth a few extra points.
Students are concerned with their GPAs even if the committee claims the proposal is not going to negatively affect them. They are very concerned about even a few small points changing in their GPA. Most 4.0 students are not in favor of it; being an A- student is not good enough for them. It would add extra pressure to top-performing students.
Sometimes students are in favor of grade modifiers. In some cases students are excited about
modifiers since grades may become more reliable. Additionally, students feel that grading can
be subjective. This is a background
issue that is never dealt with especially across departments and
professors. There seems to be no
consistency and there are different standards.
Mike Borzumate felt there is nothing that shows how grading is actually
Mike Borzumate stated that students are concerned with the potential of professors to grade harder and that some professors who give out Cs may be more likely to give a C+ instead of raising the grade to a B.
Sharon Anderson-Gold, Senator-at-Large, assumed that during
the Student Senate informal polling, they did more listening and the students
did more talking. With this in mind, she
asked the student representatives what the students may think of the arguments
made today. For example, if they knew of
the studies done where this grading system did not affect the overall GPAs of
students, would they be more supportive?
She added that there are opportunities to improve grades in certain
circumstances. She also asked what effect
the studies done by the FSCC would have on the opinions of the students. Typically, any change that people face naturally
causes stress, but it does not necessarily mean it is a bad change. Mike Borzumate stated that students really
want to know how the proposal affects getting a job and getting into grad
Michael Goldenberg added that he knows of some medical schools that require a 3.8 to get admitted. Even a small reduction to those students is a big concern and can be very important. Mike Borzumate stated that the students do not have a good feeling as to whether GPAs will go up or down and he does not believe there is a definite way to determine that. But the students do have a fear of risk.
The final issue is that it seems really complex and that some students may feel they are penalized if it happens during their academic career. When it was suggested that current students be “grandfathered” into the system, Christoph responded that it would be very complicated to keep two sets of records. The majority of students are against the +/- Grading Proposal. The Provost added that it would be difficult for instructors to manage as well since they would have to grade some students on the current system and some on a Plus/Minus system. (If there were two students with the same numerical grade of 91, one would receive an A and the other A-.)
Michael Goldenberg asked what the effective date is proposed to be. Christoph stated it would go into effect Fall 2004 but Cheryl added there has been some discussion to delay it to Fall 2005. Mike Borzumate stated that when big changes happen to the students in a short period of time, they feel it has been pushed upon them. For example, both the laptop program and graduate tuition policy happened very quickly and the students reacted negatively towards a huge change that happened so fast. The students had suggested a trial period and he asked whether that would be feasible. Christoph stated that a trial period was not discussed.
Sharon Anderson-Gold said that when she looks at transcripts, she first looks at GPAs and courses. If a student has a 3.0, it balances out because some are B+s and some B-s and it is easier to see where students excel rather than to just see all Bs. Mike Borzumate questioned whether everyone would review it the same way. If GPAs go down on average, they might not be considered for admissions if the cut off is 3.0 and they are 2.8. Senator Bill St. John stated that a student could get a 90 in every course at RPI and get a 4.0 and that another student could get 100 in every course and would also get a 4.0. He asked how graduate admissions review candidates that apply. Tom Apple, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education, replied that his department looks at GPAs which is usually two decimal places.
Henry Scarton added that with his college, B+ or A+ just transferred as B or A. Christoph stated that there will be information available on the website with documents that show other Institutions and their grading system. RPI is a distinct minority using only an A,B,C,D system. Many Institutes that we compare ourselves to have + and – grading systems.
Previously Claude Rounds, Vice President for Administration, had given a general parking update to the Faculty Senate but has returned to discuss the privacy and security issues related to the parking gates and the security database.
He first explained that the technology is a Best Access Database and the system is used to manage and operate gates. He stated that it does not feed information to any other system. It is used for parking and all security including building access. The transponders are issued by the Parking Office but then the access programming and database entries are performed by the Security Information Coordinator. This programming allows and enables access to various gates. All revisions, additions, deletions and changes in lot are performed by the Security Information Coordinator.
The data that is stored includes date, time, transponder #, name of owner and lot level of access. Claude stated that this database records entry only and that it does not include exit information. The data is stored for one month and then purged. The database will have up to 30 days stored at one time and that at least 30 days of data need to be on hand. (And thus up to 60 days maximum.)
This system is also used to monitor alarms. For example, if someone tried to gain access to a lot they did not have access to, access would be denied and an alarm for an invalid entry would appear. More importantly, the primary purpose of the alarm has been to help trouble shoot faulty transponders.
He stated that there are no reports generated from this database. The only exception is when a user has a problem with a transponder, the database can help troubleshoot. Unless there is a problem, the information is never reviewed. Claude stated that the department does have the right to use the database in any way to help in a criminal investigation. If there were to be a crime on campus in a parking lot or garage, knowing who had entered the garage in a certain time frame could be helpful to an investigation. Since the system was put in effect, it has not been used in that regard.
When asked if there is the capability to store the data on a CD-Rom, Claude responded “No”, and that it is purged. On the first Tuesday of each month, 30 days of data will be purged, but not the previous 30 days. If a crime occurred 31 days ago, it would not be available in the database. According to Claude, 30 days has been identified as a reasonable period of time. However, if the district attorney’s office is involved and they request the information, it would be archived upon their request which can also include video. However, he believes that maximum number of days on hand for video is 7 days.
there are no routine reports being generated.
If there were a request, it would be approved by John Kolb and Claude
Claude could not say definitively that there will never be a circumstance in which a report will be generated and he can not make that guarantee, however John Kolb is working on the details where both John Kolb and he would have to approve the generation of the report.
Claude stated that he can only address the database for parking. He stated that this policy only applies to parking. All the areas to address in terms of access have not yet been identified. As they are identified, a more comprehensive approach will follow and there will be a broad range of policy issues.
Claude stated there will be a policy in place for September when the building opens. He will need more information on how the system will be used. If it is used to control general access, it would be a Biotech-specific policy. Once established, it could be used as a model.
Peter presented several amendments to the Faculty Senate Constitution. (see attachment) The first item for the amendment changes is for Administrative title changes.
Provost Peterson brought up a point of clarification of the word selection versus the word recommendation as it is applicable to the Faculty Committee on Honors. Peter stated that there will be a discussion at the General Faculty Meeting in order to clarify.
Other amendments have to do with changing absolute numbers to fractions and will be rounded to the nearest integer.
The final amendment pertains to a Faculty Satisfaction Survey. Details of all are available in the attachment.
Meeting adjourned at .