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UA Talks About +/- Grading System

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Associate News Editor

At last night's Undergraduate Association Council meeting, students voiced opinion on the intermediate grading system, finalized funding allocations to student groups, and approved nominations to various faculty committees.

Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Paul A. Lagace PhD '78, who chairs the Committee on Plus/Minus Grading, spoke to the council about possible courses of action the group may take.

As the internal intermediate grading experiment reaches its midpoint, the committee is investigating the potential effects of a permanent change, Lagace said. The group is "really at the point now where we're going to focus on getting input"from students and faculty, he said.

Plus and minus grading was implemented on an internal basis only for a three-year period that started in the fall of 1995; the experiment ends in June 1998.

At that point, the faculty will decide whether to implement plus and minus grading on a permanent basis, Lagace said. "Sometime in the spring of next year we hope to have a policy ready" for the Committe onAcademic Per-formance, which will recommend any proposals to the faculty for adoption, he added.

Changes in grading investigated

The Committee on Plus/Minus Grading is currently in the process of looking at information provided by the Registrar's Office concerning the use of intermediate grades and their potential effects on cumulative averages, Lagace said.

Between 70 and 80 percent of Institute courses currently use the intermediate grades, Lagace said. "One of the motivations of the experiment was the ability [of intermediate grades] to give better advice to faculty for advising, and to students to see how they're doing," he said.

The committee is currently reviewing the potential effects on grade point averages that could be incurred as a result of the intermediate grades, Lagace said. "We are going to compare the GPAs of people now and see how much the [average] GPA of the Institute would change, and also how people's GPAs would change."

"Anything is possible,"as a result of this review, Lagace said. "We could make plus/minus grades external, or we could keep plus/minus grades internal for advising purposes only." Intermediate grades could also be discontinued, Lagace said.

Regardless of any policy change, the intermediate grades issued during the experimentation period will remain internal, Lagace said.

Student reaction mixed on issue

Some students at the UA meeting said that their impressions of internal grades depended on the type of class involved.

"Among the faculty, views tend to range toward [appreciating] intermediate grades when the subject is quantitative,"said Next House Representative to the UA Jeremy D. Sher '99. "In subjects where less quantitative grading is done, people seem to be less in favor" of intermediate grading.

The UA's Committee on Educational Policy has been talking to faculty members and students about their opinions of the intermediate grading system, said Louis J. Nervegna '99, a member of the committee.

The CEP surveyed a sampling of Baker House residents last weekend to find out their opinions on the system. Of 182 responses received, 109, or 60 percent, were against any type of intermediate grading system, while 40 percent of those surveyed were in favor of some type of intermediate grading system, Nervegna said.

The CEPalso came up with positive and negative impacts of an intermediate grading system, Nervegna said.

"At MIT, you have people applying to summer jobs with just a few terms of grades" because of the freshman pass/fail system,Nervegna said. Intermediate grading would provide additional information to potential employers.

On the other hand, intermediate grades "would cause a lot of stress for students,"Nervegna said. "People who were getting B [grades] would be going crazy trying to keep from getting B- [grades]."

Financial allocations approved

In addition to the plus and minus discussion, the UA approved allocations made by the Finance Board for the disbursement of the UA's portion of the one-time $40,000 allocation to small student groups.

The funds, pledged last fall by Provost Joel Moses PhD '67, were to be disbursed by a Central Allocations Board. After the UA and Graduate Student Council objected to the board, the board was never created. The funds will be used by groups for capital expenditures and large events, said UA Treasurer Russell S. Light '98. "The restrictions are pretty large on what you can do," he added.

Several UA representatives questioned $3,500 in allocations to the men's and women's ultimate frisbee teams.

"The stipulation we placed is that these would be materials that they keep" for the group and not for individual members, Light said.

Unlike other funding allocations, priority was given to those requesting capital expenditures and larger events, Light said.

Committee nominations approved

The UA also approved the nominations to faculty committees proposed by the UA Nominations Committee.

This year, more applicants applied to faculty committees than in previous years, according to Nomcomm Chair Kevin J. Lee '97. "There were more people who were serious" about serving on a committee this year than in previous years.

Because of the high number of strong applicants, Nomcomm nominated more individuals than the number of spaces available, Lee said. Each chair will then interview the candidates during the process.

While the number of additional applicants is good for the system in general, several applicants were nonetheless nominated to multiple committees because of a shortage of qualified applicants, Lee said.

In a separate matter, the UA failed to appoint two members to serve on the Institute Dining Review Advisory Group.

"I'm not supposed to be representing students on this group," said Sher, who serves on the working group. "I'm supposed to be impartial." The UA needs representation in order to make the views of students made on issues like mandatory meal plans and house dining, he added.