Minus Grades Added to Final Evaluations

Before this semester there was no such thing as an A-, a B+ was a 3.5 and life seemed so much easier. Now, an A- is worth a 3.7, B+ has dropped to a 3.3 and nothing is worth a 3.5. Confused?

St. John’s University has added minus grades to the curriculum starting this year but grades previously given will remain unaffected.

Dr. Julia A. Upton, Office of the Provost, said some students were reluctant to the change because they see the new grading system as a disadvantage to their G.P.A.

“I think that students who used to get a B+ from me [in the past] would now get A-‘s,” she said. “I like having [the new system] because they didn’t have quite what they needed to get an A,” Upton said.

Upton also received the request from students to implement minus grades into the system because they felt the gap between a B+ to an A was too large.

“One of the things we have been paying attention to is bringing ourselves into the mainstream of higher education and what other institutions do,” Upton said.

A few of the institutions that were used as benchmarks to compare grading systems with were Georgetown University, Boston College, New York University and Pace University.

“When we did benchmarking about grading, [the other colleges and universities] that we like to compare ourselves to all had minus grades,” she said.

Caragh DeLuca, the academic chair for Student Government Inc., said that one of the benefits of having minus grades used at St. John’s is that it will prove useful when it comes time to apply for graduate schools.

DeLuca explained that graduate schools have taken St. John’s transcripts and converted the grades to more fairly compare them to other applicants whose schools use the minus grade system.

“St. John’s has never had minus grades and many other colleges and universities do,” said Joseph Capobianco, University Registrar.

“It’s fairly common to have both minus grades as well as plus grades. And as I recall there was a sense among one or more faculty members that minus grades would give them more precision in terms of assigning grades to students, and making a finer distinction between B+ work and an A.”

Capobianco said the idea had been circulating through the campus and made its way to the University Senate of St. John’s. It then went to the faculty affairs committee of the Senate who then developed a proposal, and at its November 26, 2001 meeting, the University Senate approved the motion.