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Survey is first step in reevaluation of grade deflation

A survey sent out to all undergraduate students on Feb. 5 is the first formal step in gathering information for the reevaluation of the grade deflation grading policy.

“This survey is the primary means by which we’re consulting with our current undergraduate population,” said Associate Dean of the College Elizabeth Colagiuri GS ’99, a member of the Ad Hoc Committee to Review Policies Regarding Assessment and Grading. According to Colagiuri, 30 percent of undergraduates had responded as of last Wednesday.

The University introduced a grade deflation policy in 2004, which limits the number of A-range grades that every department can give to 35 percent. In the case of independent work, up to 55 percent of the grades can be in the A-range.

The committee was formed in early October by University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83, just three months into his tenure. Eisgruber spoke to alumni in New York the same day, citing a study showing that graduate schools rarely consider an undergraduate program’s grading policy in making admissions decisions.

Colagiuri said that while she could not comment on the specific questions, the committee will take particular interest in demographic variations over class year and concentrations, among other areas,  in making their considerations.

The Ad Hoc Committee plans to send out a separate survey to all current members of the faculty and to launch a public comment website in the next few weeks to solicit input from graduate students, alumni, parents of undergraduates and any other interested parties, Colagiuri said.

“This is a great opportunity [for undergraduates] to let the committee know what they’re thinking, and to take that opportunity to chime in,” Colaguiri said.

In Eisgruber’s Charge to the Ad Hoc Committee, he instructed the committee to consider two fundamental questions: whether the objectives of the grading policy were appropriate and if the policy achieved the goals of the University with as few negative consequences as possible.

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Clancy Rowley ’95, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee, said the survey would help the committee develop answers to those questions.

“I think we have some idea of [the sentiment on campus towards the grading policy], but the survey will answer that in a quantitative way,” Rowley said.

Jimmy Baase ’15, the Undergraduate Student Government Academics Committee Chair, said the USG will continue to work with the Ad Hoc Committee to see if the grading policy does in fact need changing. The Academics Committee will also continue to survey students on its own, in hopes that their findings will augment the committee’s results.

“I think that [Academics Committee members] are going to have the benefit of knowing lots of people on campus, representing A.B. majors, B.S.E. majors, having as their friends people who are in lots of extracurriculars or few extracurriculars,” Baase said. “So with this new student feedback we’ll be able to solicit many more genuine and many more varied responses.”

Jeff Wu ’17 questioned the effectiveness of the survey, since it was voluntary and sent out in a mass email to all students.

“A lot of the questions were very vague,” Wu said. “And because it is a voluntary survey, there could be bias in the people who chose to fill it out.”

Utsarga Sikder ’15 also completed the survey and said he was glad that the administration is seeking student input.

“I think it was a good change from what usually is there,” Sikder said. “I feel like the status quo is that there’s no input at all.”

Sikder also said that he hopes the findings of the survey are published for students to see some time in the near future.

“I already know what I think; I’d like to see what other people think,” Sikder said.

The survey will close Feb. 19.

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