According to a memo sent out to all RIT students and faculty via e-mail on behalf of Jeremy Haefner, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, ideas for the switch began in the spring of 2009. After being postponed in 2010, the plan was to implement the change at the start of the 2013 - 2014 academic year.
The Provost’s memo explained that the most recent postponement of the plus-minus grading system is, once again, for further refinement. Throughout the upcoming academic year, faculty will be working on the college, department and program levels “to assure consistency and uniform implementation.” With the change to semesters, the memo stated that, “Adding yet another challenge seems counterproductive.”
Dr. James Heliotis, a professor in the Department of Computer Science, has been working on the new grading system as a member of the plus-minus grading taskforce. The taskforce is made up of 16 individuals from all areas of RIT.
“There’s just too much going on with the semester conversion,” said Heliotis, confirming why the implementation has been postponed a second time.
Students and faculty across the university have considered the approaching grading change and have offered their thoughts.
Megan Moltrup, third year Museum Studies student, said that the new system will make more sense.
“There’s a big difference between a 90 and a 99,” she said, adding that she saw no downsides to the new system.
Sara Wirth, fourth year Hospitality Management student, agreed with the previous comment but added that some students could be discouraged by the new system. For students who generally earn scores in the lower end of a letter grade, seeing a minus next to their grades could be disheartening, as it also lowers their GPAs.
Students with experience with the system expressed discontent with the switch as well. Megan Fleet, third year Business Management student, transferred from Monroe Community College where she disliked the plus-minus grading system.
“Even if it’s an A it still looks like a minus,” she said. “100 percent and 90 percent are not the same, but if you work for the letter grade of an A you should get an A.” Peggy Noll, senior staff assistant for the departments of History; Philosophy; and Performing Arts and Visual Culture, felt that the new grading system would be beneficial to students. She noted that while it could affect some students’ grades in ways that could influence their scholarships, the new system would be more akin to other universities grading systems. John Kaemmerlen, lecturer for the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, shared Noll’s contentment with the new system. He said that it will better differentiate grades. He noted that in the current system the difference between an 89.4 percent and an 89.6 percent was very small, yet it could mean the difference between an A and a B for a student, altering his or her overall grade.
The memo from the Provost concluded by stating that this switch to a plus-minus grading system will keep RIT on track with other universities and also offers a more accurate way to determine students’ success in the classroom. The email said plans for the upcoming grading system are promised to “be based on open communication, transparency of process, and careful attention to the academic success of our students.”