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January 6, 1997

GPA option is approved by Academic Senate

By a two-to-one margin, members of UCSC's Academic Senate have approved a proposal that will permit new students--beginning next fall--to accumulate a grade-point average. Under the grading plan, both new and continuing students will also be eligible to request letter grades for all classes, beginning in the fall.

Of a total of 276 votes cast by mail, 183 members of the senate endorsed the proposal, 92 voted against the change, and 1 senator abstained.

The senate's Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) had recommended the new grading policy, saying the change would provide students with more options while retaining the Narrative Evaluation System. CEP's proposal was initially adopted by the Academic Senate during the spring-quarter meeting last May. After that vote, however, 28 members of the senate filed a petition with the Academic Senate office, requesting that the matter be put to a vote by mail ballot; senate bylaws require that such petitions be signed by at least 25 senators.

Proponents of the CEP proposal said last spring that a grade-point average option would make the campus more attractive to prospective students, help retain students once they enroll, and address problems the lack of a GPA has created for some UCSC students trying to gain admission to or secure financial aid from other colleges or universities. Opponents argued that the CEP plan would threaten narrative evaluations and erode UCSC's tradition of emphasizing learning over grades. A third contingent of faculty offered a different model for change, the GANES (Grades with Narrative Evaluations) proposal.

Specifically, the new plan:

-- Establishes a mechanism for issuing a GPA to students who request one. To receive a GPA, students will have to request letter grades in at least two-thirds of their classes--a threshold consistent with the practice at most other UC campuses.

-- Extends the letter-grade option to all courses offered at UCSC. Currently, students may elect to supplement narrative evaluations with letter grades in most upper-division and some lower-division courses. The new policy will still permit course-sponsoring units to request that CEP consider "Pass/No Pass only" grading options for specific courses; the requests would be considered on pedagogical grounds.

-- Expands the letter-grade menu to include the grades "D," "F," and "W" (withdraw). Currently, the letter-grade option supplements narratives with an "A," "B," "C," or "NP" (no pass or no record).

--Jim Burns

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