ASUS fighting uphill grading battle

Society seeks inclusion of class averages on transcripts

Adam Grotsky speaking at the ASUS town hall.
Adam Grotsky speaking at the ASUS town hall.
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ASUS’s plan to encourage the Faculty of Arts and Science to have class averages appear on transcripts, discussed at a Tuesday town hall meeting on the 2012-13 Arts and Science grading report, might be more of an uphill battle than they expect.

The talk followed an April report which outlines grading discrepancies across Arts and Science departments. Roughly 15 students attended, most of whom expressed concern that discrepancies in grading systems across Arts and Science departments would affect them negatively when applying to graduate school.

Attendants agreed that posting class averages on transcripts would help alleviate negative perceptions regarding poorer grades in certain departments.

ASUS President Adam Grotsky said he planned to bring up the suggestion in a DSC meeting to consult student representatives from various departments.

But according to Jordan Morelli, an associate professor in the department of physics, the suggestion might not be entirely feasible.

“It always comes down to funding,” Morelli told the Journal following the meeting. Morelli is also chair of the Senate Committee on Academic Procedures (SCAP).

“My personal preference is that averages appear on transcripts and rank in program appear on transcripts wherever possible, but I can’t speak for SCAP.”

SCAP is composed of one ex-officio member, the Registrar; and six elected members — three faculty, one from the AMS, one from the SGPS and one staff — who are responsible for examining various topics related to academic procedure in order to make suggestions to Senate. One of these topics is grading systems throughout the University.

“Those types of things were removed at the urging of the registrar because in his position, the academic transcript is meant to be a record of your actual experience at the university and the class average is not a reflection of your actual experience — it’s a reflection of the collective’s experience,” Morelli said.

Before changes were made to the transcript template in 2010, faculties were responsible for what appeared on transcripts.

Now, Morelli said, “the dean [of Arts and Science] has no [greater] authority to do anything about it”.

“She as a senator can make a motion in Senate calling for SCAP to look into the possibility of putting averages on the transcript,” Morelli said, but SCAP would then need to make a report and recommendation to Senate, which Senate can choose to act on as it sees fit.

In April 2013, Provost Alan Harrison stated in a written report to Senate that the University planned to modify the PeopleSoft system to include percentage grades for transcripts, but the “speed with which this particular modification is implemented will depend on the availability of funds and resources.” “I think the administration will make the argument that PeopleSoft can’t be customized without great expense,” Morelli said, and added that PeopleSoft is “a very expensive platform that doesn’t meet the needs of our university”.

Susan Mumm, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, said she’d be “pretty surprised if a student ever said to me ‘I chose discipline A because it gives high marks even though I’m really interested in discipline B’”.

“Let’s hope that they found the two subjects of equal interest because otherwise that would be quite sad,” she said.

Mumm said printing class averages on transcripts shouldn’t be a problem, but added that Arts and Science can’t be the only faculty to do it.

She suggested that students look into attaching course grade distribution tables, which students can generate themselves, to their transcripts.

“They’re quite useful for someone who is, let’s say, applying to graduate school, especially if they’re applying outside Canada to universities that might not be very familiar with Queen’s reputation as a place where, you know, it’s pretty hard to get an A,” she said.

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