Senate decides to keep GPA system

Senator Jordan Morelli will put forth another motion at next Senate on Nov. 22 to change the GPA system.
Senator Jordan Morelli will put forth another motion at next Senate on Nov. 22 to change the GPA system.

Queen’s Senator Jordan Morelli wants the University to rethink its grading structure.

At Monday’s Senate meeting, Morelli proposed a new grading system whereby students would receive both a percentage and letter grade instead of a grade point average (GPA.) The motion failed, winning only two votes of support and two abstentions.

Morelli, an assistant professor in the department of physics, engineering physics and astronomy, said the GPA system is disadvantaging upper-year students. Once translated from a per cent average to the GPA system, students’ averages are lower than they should be, Morelli said.

“Whether this passes or not I suggest we do need a strategy to remediate the negative effect we have had on our students,” Morelli told Senate.

“Thirty per cent of our [fourth-year engineering physics] students are in the category where they’re at risk of having their GPAs put them below the dean’s list, whereas their cumulative averages before would’ve put them over the dean’s list,” Morelli told the Journal.

The honours dean’s list cut-off is 80 per cent which is equivalent to a 3.7 GPA.

Students with an overall average between 80 and 85 per cent are at greatest risk of being unfairly below the cut-off line, Morelli said, even though numerically they should be considered honours students.

For example, if a student receives two grades of 85 and 76 per cent, the average would be 80.5 per cent. In a per cent-based system this would qualify the student for honours.

But if the grades are converted to their GPA equivalents of 4.0 and 3.0 respectively, the student would have an average of 3.5 and would then fail to make the honours list.

Because his motion failed, Morelli said he will bring forth a new motion in the Nov. 22 Senate meeting. He will propose that faculties and schools review their students’ grades for the past three years and adjust them accordingly.

“We are now at this time not requiring that faculties and schools do anything about the problem, we are just hoping that they do,” Morelli said. “I want to make sure that Senate takes responsibility and ensures that something happens.”

He said he emailed AMS President Morgan Campbell and Student Senate Caucus Chair Doug Johnson asking for their support on this new motion.

He said he will attempt to pass the motion regardless of the support he gets.

AMS Academic Affairs Commissioner Mira Dineen said a number of students are frustrated because the change to a GPA system came as a surprise.

“[The University] actually did really extensive consultation. The issue isn’t whether or not students were consulted, the issue is that the students who were consulted are generally not here anymore,” Dineen, ArtSci ’11, said.

A review of the Queen’s grading system began in fall 2008 and resulted in the implementation of the current 4.3 GPA scale in May 2011.

Dineen said the Registrar’s Office and faculties had concerns that graduating students would be disadvantaged by having marks outside of the GPA system.

“There were concerns that a student graduating from Queens would be applying to graduate schools and there would be no means for that admissions office to interpret those grades,” she said.

Dineen said the GPA system offers a chance for professors to rethink the grading culture at Queen’s.

“I would support the faculties and schools encouraging further training for professors in how to use the GPA system,” she said. “This won’t work if professors are still thinking in terms of percentages.”

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