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Sunday, April 21, 2024

ASUCD senator aims to introduce A+s

Senator Patrick Sheehan recently proposed to the UC Davis Academic Senate the idea of quantifying A+s so that students who receive the above average grade are rewarded for their efforts through an increase in their GPA.

In his two proposals for a GPA-calculable A+, an A+ could either be weighted as 4.3 on the grading scale or it could be used to counteract a lower grade of a class in the same department. Academic Senate’s Committee on Elections, Rules and Regulations (CERJ) also assisted in organizing the proposal.

As a major theme of his argument, Senator Sheehan cited that the reward in achieving an A+ grade would serve as an incentive for students. These proposals have yet to be approved by the UC Davis Academic Senate.

“Anything going through the Academic Senate is going to take a lot of time, especially if it’s a contentious issue,” said Sheehan, a sophomore political science major. “What did end up happening was that my intern and I drafted two separate proposals.”

Sheehan cited that the two Academic Senate committees that were in charge of reviewing his suggestions for an A+ system gave criticism on the complexity of the plans.

“They said the proposals we came up with were too complicated,” Sheehan said. “We were trying to combat discrepancies between majors and departments.”

Another qualm that the Academic Senate committees had with the plan was the possible negative effects on how graduate programs looked at the UC Davis grading system.

“They said we don’t want to break the 4.0 grading scale,” Sheehan said,  referring to the resistance he encountered from the Academic Senate’s Undergraduate Council.

One of the alternative solutions offered by the Academic Senate committees was to place the number of A+s a student receives at the very top of their transcript so they are more visible.

The Academic Senate’s role is unknown to most undergraduate students as most of their proceedings and rulings take place behind the scenes of everyday student life and the senate is primarily comprised of  tenured professors.

“The Board of Regents has delegated to the Academic Senate control over academic matters on the campuses, including such matters as grading,” said G. J. Mattey, senior lecturer of philosophy and chair of the CERJ.

When a matter such as a proposed change in the grading system is brought before the Academic Senate, it must go through multiple steps before it can be written into the university’s bylaws.

It first must be reviewed by a committee that pertains to the matter at hand such as the CERJ, then it is brought before the Executive Council which decides whether or not to proceed with the proposal. If the proposal is approved by the Executive Council, a Representative Assembly from the university brings the proposal to the UC-wide Academic Senate which ultimately decides whether the legislation can be implemented or not.

“In general we don’t make judgment on the proposals,” Mattey said, referring to the first committees to hear the proposals.

Although there are concerns from various Academic Senate committees, it is likely that the proposal will be seriously reviewed by the Executive Council.

“I believe that it’s being moved forward to the Executive Council,” said Mark Grismer, professor of land, air and water resources and member of the Undergraduate Council .

Senator Sheehan is still trying to make his proposition clear to the Academic Senate, as no form of the proposed A+ rule has even been approved by the Executive Council.

One of Sheehan’s main arguments is that within a grading system, incentives are necessary.

“Some said that an A+ student gets an A+ simply because they’re an A+ student. Not for any sort of incentive,” said Sheehan. “I feel that an argument against an A+ is an argument against a grading system entirely.”

Last quarter out of 1,442 courses, 41.1 percent (597 courses) had at least one A+ awarded. In all, 2,944 students Winter Quarter achieved at least one A+ with a combined average UC GPA of 3.55.

Sheehan says that based on these statistics nearly every student who received an A+ last quarter would have a quantifiable GPA benefit if the A+ rule were to be enacted.

“If an A+ has no weight, why should professors even give them out?” Sheehan said. “It’s a measure of fairness.”

MAX GARRITY RUSSER can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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