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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Upcoming policy vote to get rid of grade averaging

After discussion last year, the Academic Coordinating Commission unanimously approved a new grade replacement policy at its Oct. 27, meeting.

It will now be voted upon by the faculty senate and, if approved, will change how students’ GPAs are affected when they retake classes. Starting fall 2016, it would allow the most recent grade to replace the first, usually resulting in better cumulative grades.

The ACC is responsible for making recommendations to the faculty senate about academic matters and curriculum, chair Mark Kuntz said.

The faculty senate will consider the policy on Monday, Nov. 9, and majority approval will be needed to implement it.

Western students who retake a class are often unaware that current policy averages their old and new grades together and both factor into their GPA.

“What’s odd about averaging is if you took a class twice — first time you got an F, second time you got an A — the averaging is that you have a C knowledge,” Kuntz said. “You actually have an A knowledge.”

Such grade averaging is uncommon. Most universities in the nation use grade replacement, which strikes the first grade from the GPA entirely.

The averaging policy was introduced in 1995, likely with the intention of reducing demand for bottleneck courses, Kuntz said. Grade averaging can place students who start at Western at a disadvantage.

Transfer students coming from schools with replacement policies can take a class as many times as they need, and arrive with a higher GPA than a Western student in the same situation. That GPA then gives them a leg up when applying to degree programs, said Zach Dove, Associated Students vice president for academic affairs.

Dove has attended ACC meetings and channeled student feedback into the discussion.

Kuntz and other supporters of grade replacement are also hoping the policy change will encourage students not to use withdrawal privileges as often, he said. As a result, classes would be kept full and students would receive greater benefit.

“They’re willing to take a risk on a class,” Kuntz said. “That may open a door for them that would not otherwise be opened.”

Senior Eric Menter withdrew from a math course twice, never completing it because he feared a failing grade would affect his GPA.

He would have stayed in the class if he had known he would be able to improve his grade, Menter said.

“I definitely support [the policy],” Menter said. “My experience is getting discouraged and having to drop out just for fear.”

To protect freshmen and sophomores from being excluded from classes, students who choose to retake courses may have to wait until the third phase of registration to register, Dove said.

Similarly, the registrar may ask a repeating student to drop a class they have already enrolled in if demand is particularly high.

The caveat of the policy is the latest grade earned is weighed in the GPA, Dove said. If a student earns a worse grade when retaking a course, their grades will be lower than before.

Students may submit a general petition form to the registrar’s office requesting to use the better grade. The request may be approved depending on personal circumstances, Dove said.

All final course grades remain on a student’s transcript. The grade replacement policy only affects how GPA is determined.

For those who wish to attend the faculty senate meeting at 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 9, in Old Main 340 and is open to the public.

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