College of Arts and Sciences
Educational Policy Meeting
Minutes of the 396th Meeting
CALL TO ORDER: Dean Quinn called the meeting to order at 4:10 P.M. noting that as the Appeals subcommittee had no business to report and as Academic Affairs would be presenting a report on the use of undergraduates as teaching assistants at the next meeting, this meeting would be devoted to a preliminary report on grade inflation from the Honors subcommittee.
MINUTES: Minutes for
a. Murphy began by noting that, since the early 1990s, regardless of how it was calculated, all the data showed a strong upward trend in grades for undergraduate.
MEDIAN GPA BY CLASS: Murphy stated that over the last decade the median GPA for all undergraduates went up and that for every year the spring median GPA was higher than the fall median GPA. He added that, by the spring of 2003, half of all seniors received a GPA higher than 3.5 for courses taken in that semester.
Paul Davidovits asked if this seasonal rise might result from poorer students dropping out of course sequences. Michael Connolly commented that this might result from students in two semester long courses usually receiving higher grades for the second semester. Dean Quinn noted that, in the case of seniors who might be taking only courses in their major and doing a senior thesis, we would expect them to be doing their best work and receiving their highest grades.
AVERAGE GPA BY CLASS: Murphy stated that from 1993 to 2003 the average GPA for all undergraduates had gone up though more slowly than the median. He added that he thought the median a more useful indicator than the average.
Michael Connolly asked if there was a problem with the data for seniors in the spring semester of 2003. Murphy responded there were problems with the data for the years 1996 and 2003 but that he would try to resolve those for the final report.
PERCENT DISTRIBUTION OF GRADES FOR A&S AND FOR ALL UNDERGRADUATES. Pointing out that the data presented three years, 1995, 1999, and 2003, Murphy stated that the distribution revealed a dramtic increase in the number of “A” and “A-“ grades given.
Ourida Mostefai noted this corresponded to the situation at Harvard and stated that in reviewing student records for the Dean’s Sophomore Scholars list, she discovered that 1/3 of the current sophomores in A&S had cumulative GPAs above 3.5. Murphy added that the final cut off for Dean’s Scholars was 3.7.
b. Murphy presented data comparing the cumulative GPA of students taking a department’s courses to the GPA of students for the courses offered by a department.
c. Murphy stated that the data for the rise in GPA has shadowed a marked increase in the quality of students admitted to BC as indicated by SAT scores.
SURVEY OF OTHER SCHOOLS.
Murphy stated that the subcommittee had received 10 responses to a questionnaire concerning the issue of grade inflation sent to the member schools of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities. He summarized the responses as follows:
a. Educate Faculty concerning these trends by
b. Develop tools for measuring students’ relative performance which could be recorded on the transcripts alongside with each course grade.
c. Incorporate grade expectation questions into student course evaluations.
Ourida Mostefai suggested that several factors seemed to push grades up including
Paul Davidovits noted that the pressure for good or high
grades begins before the students reach
Dean Quinn asked if those possessing institutional memory thought the change occurred in the 1980s. Michael Connolly responded that the deans used to send data on grade spreads to faculty and chairs. Bob Murphy stated he would try to find out why this practice was stopped.
Michael Connolly stated that forcing a strict bell curve would disadvantage BC students applying to postgraduate programs. Clare O’Connor responded that the MCAT did comparatively evaluate universities.
Dean Quinn wondered if this was one more feature of a culture of “customer satisfaction.”
ADJOURNMENT. Dean Quinn thanked the subcommittee for its work and adjourned the meeting at
Michael C. Martin
Secretary to the EPC