From the Archives: Grades
Editor’s Note: The Commentator has decided to reprint the following articles from when the Yeshiva College undergraduate grading system was discussed and last updated. Concerns about grade inflation, which were a major impetus for the concerns raised and the changes addressed in these articles, still ring true these decades years later.
Title: From the Archives (October 19, 1955; Volume 21 Issue 2) — Dr. Guterman Defines College Grading Policy
Author: Commentator Staff 1955-56
There is no quantitive grading policy at Yeshiva College, disclosed Dr. Simeon Guterman, dean of the College. The Dean made the statement after Morris Silverman, registrar, had informed The Commentator that a quantitive policy was in effect.
According to the policy explained by the Registrar, September 21, an instructor is to maintain no higher than a C+ — B- (2.89) average in elementary courses and a B — B+ (3.39) average in advanced courses. If the class average does not conform to the policy, the instructor may be questioned by the College Office and asked to explain why his subject or his class is unusual, Professor Silverman said.
The following day, September 22, Dean Guterman revealed that the quantitative policy explained by the Registrar had been revoked in June, 1953.
Last week the Dean again discussed the official policy of the College. “We would like instructors to be aware of the best grading practices,” the Dean said. “We expect instructors to know how to grade. We would like to see a proper grade distribution for the school as a whole.”
Emphasizing that the official policy is very general, the Dean continued, “We do not say to the instructor that he must give so many A’s, so many B’s, etc. Each instructor ought to be critical and grade carefully.”
Title: From the Archives (May 12, 1987; Volume 52 Issue 8) — Grade System to be Changed
Author: Jay Stochinsky and Jay Neustadter
Next year YC faculty will have seven new grades in their arsenal. At the suggestion of the Academic Standards Committee, the faculty of YC has decided to adopt the grading system currently used in Stern College, whereby pluses and minuses can be awarded along with the grades A, B, C, and D: In calculating grade point averages, a plus grade will be worth one third point more than the grade, and a minus grade, one third less. Thus, for example, a B+ will be worth 3.33, and an A-, 3.66. There will be no A+ grade.
According to Dean Norman Rosenfeld, the faculty has supported such a change for a long time, feeling that it would allow them to grade more accurately. However, the real impetus for the change was administrative rather than academic. With the opening of the Sy Syms School of Business, students of both YC and Stern College will be taking (separate) courses in the same school, and to have two separate grading systems would be both inefficient and unfair. JSS and IBC will also adopt the new system.
Dean Rosenfeld estimated that the new grading system would lower the average GPA of YC students by two-tenths of a point. Since it will not be possible to earn an A+ grade, however, the change “will hit the higher averaging students hardest,” and it will be much more difficult to maintain at 4.0 average. While admitting there was some concern among the faculty about grade inflation, Dean Rosenfeld denied that this in any way motivated the change, adding that, “many faculty members believe that the grades students get are what they deserve.”
Dean Rosenfeld also expressed some reservations about the new system. He believes the old grading system might be a more accurate way of assessing a student’s performance, based on mathematical reasoning which he termed “arcane.” He also expressed the fear that under the new system, students will be more likely to contest grades.
According to David Feldan, a member of the YU Senate, the students are against the change in the system just as they were the last time the issue arose a number of years ago. In reality, the students’ reactions are mixed. Josh Adler, a graduating senior, feels that “the truth is that it is a much more accurate grading system than that which they’ve had in the past and I think it’ll do a lot to curb the inflated GPA’s at YU.”
One YC freshman concedes that the plus-minus system is correct but is bothered by the fact that it will ultimately hurt him. This idea seems to be shared by many. However, the bottom line is as Joe Hyman, a YC sophomore, put it. “In the short run it will be to the students’ detriment since they are too conditioned by the old system. In the long run they will benefit vis-a-vis harder work to achieve better grades, thereby reflecting better discipline, which will reflect more accurately the students’ abilities. Students will no longer be able to scrape by with a B and talk their way into an A. The time is right to make this change. YU has the attention of big companies and top graduate schools and, if we want to keep them interested, we need to prove that our grades are real.”
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