Minus Grades are Positive

Midterms are closing in on us. We are once again forced to dig deep and study hard so that we may achieve the grades fit for a university student. For some students, getting good grades is quite easy. For most students, keeping them up is a challenging task. Effective this semester, the University Senate has added minus grades at both undergraduate and graduate levels.

I’m sure that all of St. John’s students have received a letter about such changes, but in case you accidentally threw that letter away along with your bills, I roamed the campus to find reactions and get to the heart of the matter.

Most of the students that I talked to said their professors didn’t mention the changes in the grading policy. They should have taken some time to elaborate on this matter, especially to new students so that they could make the necessary adjustments in their study habits. Professors who were asked by the students were more than happy to share their thoughts and explain things, such as letter grades that correspond with numerical value.

Some students feel that the new grading policy is beneficial to improving our University and ourselves. Wei Chen, a Biology major, said, “It’s good. It’ll encourage the students to study more. Some students might not find it effective now, but in the long run, it’ll just increase our quality as students.”

I agree. The addition of minus grades placed St. John’s University next to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and other Ivy League schools in terms of grading policy. There will be less grade inflation, more effort will be put into acquiring that oh-so-desirable-A, and our University’s standards will rise.

Other students are of two minds about the issue. On the one hand, the new grading system is good for the students who are in borderline B and C grades. Instead of getting a C+, they’ll have a nice B- written on their paper. On the other hand, it’s not really good news for those students who usually expect an A. It will take more studying to acquire that grade now. I talked with a psychology major who hoped that instead of being in an A and B range, she would land in the middle with an A-. Of course, she’d rather have a plain old A.

She has a point, but effort and hard work are almost always intertwined with the phrase, “it was worth it” after you see the fruits of your labor. Journalism major LeMarra Brown disagreed. “It’s not beneficial for the students because they have to work harder than usual to maintain a higher GPA.”

It could be a source of extra stress but think about the long-term benefits. We’ll eventually relinquish our old habits of settling for a mediocre grade, add one more hour to our sleep debt and then we can feast our eyes on that higher grade. A graduate student said that having a C as the lowest passing grade might be hard, but then again, the academic standard will surely take us to a whole new level of knowledge.

It’s highly possible that our study habits might change due to this new grading policy. So what road do we take? Either we become motivated to study harder and push for Ivy League standards, or we fall into a false sense of security knowing that 2.7 is in the B- range. With that kind of sloth, we don’t put our best foot forward and we drag our University down to the pits of mediocrity. We won’t do that. We are St. John’s and we’ll strive for the best. Let’s be optimistic and say that this change in the grading policy will be beneficial to us. If you can get a decent grade without a Herculean effort, why not raise your standard an extra notch, and go for the next level of achievement?

The ideal paradigm of a university consists of students who work hard to earn their grades, lift the university standard to a higher level, and acquire the knowledge and experience that make all the excruciating work rewarding. The new grading policy might just be one of the methods towards reaching that goal.