Faculty mulls change in retake policy

    In an effort to reduce grade inflation, an Academic Senate committee is considering denying students who receive a grade of “D” or “F” the opportunity to retake courses.

    Over the past two months, the Committee on Education Policy has discussed ways to address rising average grades over the past decade, a phenomenon witnessed by universities across the nation.

    Committee co-chair and physics professor Kim Griest said students’ grades have become insignificant as more students receive “As” and “Bs” than 10 years ago, when the average grade at UCSD was a “C.”

    “If everybody gets an ‘A,’ grades don’t mean anything,” Griest said.

    Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Mark I. Appelbaum, who serves as an informal nonvoting member on the committee, said he disagrees that the campus has experienced grade inflation, pointing to data generated by the faculty that show the mean grade point average for undergraduates rising from 3.01 to 3.05 over the last five years.

    Still, the committee wants to look over the data to determine whether a problem of grade inflation exists, according to Geist.

    He said because the issue of not letting students retake classes was only discussed once, it is not a set proposal and is far from being enacted.

    “I think it’s a bad idea all around,” A.S. Vice President of Academic Affairs Harry Khanna said regarding the policy. “It discourages students from taking other classes, especially if they get an ‘F’ the first quarter.”

    Griest, however, said he worries students who retake classes might have an unfair advantage over others who are taking the class for the first time.

    “I don’t know if it’s fair for students who get ‘Bs’ and ‘Cs’ to not be given the opportunity to retake the class like those who fail and have a better chance of getting an ‘A,’” Griest said.

    Appelbaum is concerned that students might be “developing strategies” to boost their grade. One example, he said, is that students might rather get a “W” in a class they are failing so they can retake it later.

    Earl Warren College sophomore David Oh said he used a similar strategy of dropping a class before receiving an undesirable grade.

    “I just didn’t take the final for my genetics class because I was probably going to get a ‘C,’ and thought it would be easier to take it later,” Oh said. “I guess it wasn’t fair because I knew what to expect.”

    Appelbaum said that every year one out of every two students gets a “W” after fourth week of the quarter.

    The committee is not sure about what causes grade inflation, but Griest thinks it may also be due to professors or departments giving higher grades.

    “I know some professors curve grades higher in their classes,” Shelley said.

    Appelbaum said this pattern might have started during the Vietnam War, when professors were reluctant to have students drop out, because they would automatically be drafted to the army.

    Alternative ideas to prohibiting students from retaking classes include collecting grade data by department and professor to discern possible trends.

    “Tradition gets going and becomes a norm,” he said. “It’s just the way we do things.”

    Readers can contact Nayeli Pagaza at [email protected].

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