Proposal from the Educational Policy Committee to Add an Honorary A+ to the Grading System (D 6088).

Professor Lawler (committee chair) summarized the plus/minus grading system that had been previously approved by the Faculty Council. This previous legislation established a plus/minus grading system for undergraduates that was identical to that established for graduate students a few years ago. Professor Lawler explained that the official motion to be acted upon was that the grading system at The University of Texas at Austin be amended to include an A+ that is worth 4.0 quality points, the same as the grade of A in calculating the GPA or any other grade-related statistic. The motion further stipulates that the A+ will show on the student’s transcript and that the grading system is to apply for all graduate and undergraduate courses.

Mr. Reid Long (Senate of College Councils) reported that students were supportive of the honorary A+, and the Senate of College Councils had passed a resolution endorsing the motion when it was first discussed in the Educational Policy Committee. He said the students did not believe some of the concerns expressed by opponents of the motion were that substantive, such as “there is a potential cause for down-shifting of GPAs based upon an error in calculation that some departments will just assume that because it’s an A+ that it’s a 4.3.” He said the Senate members felt “we shouldn’t legislate on potential errors and concerns like that.”

Professor Pauline Strong (anthropology and chair of the Graduate Assembly) reported that the honorary A+ motion was under consideration by the Graduate Assembly, but she perceived that the Assembly would prefer to continue with the system now in use. Professor Lawler added that the motion did not receive unanimous approval by the Educational Policy Committee; he said he thought the vote had been 8 to 3 in favor of the motion. Professor Mark Alpert (marketing) said he was in favor of the plus/minus system currently being used in graduate courses because it allowed him to differentiate a grade of 88 from an 80, but he spoke against the A+ being included on the transcript because of the potential for errors; instead, he said the A+ could be mentioned in a letter of recommendation. Professor Linda Golden (marketing) said the results of her survey of faculty in the McComb’s School indicated they were overwhelmingly opposed to the honorary A+ and felt it would complicate perceptions of the grading system. She said her respondents thought there were many ways to indicate superiority in grade rankings of students; furthermore they perceived that if an A+ were included, then it should be a “real A+” instead an honorary one.

Professor Hillis pointed out that the students had expressed a good deal of concern about the lack of an A+ when the plus/minus system was under consideration. He said he could understand arguments on both sides, but he did not “see the problems as being sufficient to really exclude it.” He said he had decided to support the motion because he thought it could “relieve some of the student concerns about the grading system.” Professor Martha Hilley (music) said she thought the use of A+ grades was a fair way to recognize outstanding performance, especially in the type of skills-based courses that she teaches, and she has assigned A+ grades throughout her 37 years of teaching experience. She said she rarely awards an A+ because assigning this grade means what the student has accomplished over the entire semester could not have been any better than it was, and this is a rarity in her opinion. She agreed with Professor Hillis that passage of the honorary A+ legislation was an important way to support the students.

Chair Burger asked Professor Lawler if the Graduate Assembly and the Faculty Council both passed similar motions approving the honorary A+, would this mean that the new honorary grade would be automatically implemented without any further involvement by the Faculty Council?

Professor Lawler responded affirmatively but added that the legislation would still need to go through the administrative approval steps and be acceptable to President Powers. Chair Burger clarified the process by saying, “…if we pass this motion, then it would really be up to the Graduate Assembly, and if they vote it down, it’s down, and if they vote it up, it’s up. If they vote up, it moves on to the administration.” Professor Lawler agreed, and Chair Burger asked for a voice vote. When opposing votes were heard, he asked for a vote by show of hands. After an unidentified member of the audience asked if there were a quorum, it was determine that the attendance roster indicated that 43 voting members were present at the time of the quorum call and that number of attendees was sufficient to proceed with the vote. Chair Burger conducted the vote by show of hands, and the motion overwhelmingly passed.