Meeting Minutes: November 4, 1993


Present were: John Bauer, Hardeep Bhullar, Robert Birkenholz, Dale Blevins, Irv Cockriel, Jay Dix, Edward Hunvald, Brent Jones, Eugene Lane, John Miles, Kerby Miller, Deborah Pearsall, Larry Penney, Glenn Pierce, Patricia Plummer, Michael Prewitt, Kit Salter, Dennis Sentilles, Don Sievert, Betty Winfield, Warren Zahler, Mabel Grimes (Black Faculty and Staff), and Roy Utz (Retirees). Douglas L. Holt substituted for Hildegarde Heymann, Robert Berk for Mary Ellen Sievert, and Mike Devaney for Harry Tyrer. Absent were: Gary Allee, Jean Hamilton, Loren Nikolai, Don York, and Dean Schmidt (Library).

Approval of Minutes

Chairman Hunvald called the meeting to order at 3:40 p.m. in room S110 Memorial Union. The minutes of the preceding meeting were approved with minor changes.

Report of Officers

Professor Cockriel reported that because of the number of people on Local Area Networks, who either did not have, or had but did not use -- Mizzou1 (CMS) accounts -- it had been decided at the moment not to go ahead with electronic voting. Indeed, it is expected that the number of people on LAN's will increase. The possibility of telephone voting might be worth investigating as an alternative.

The Chairman announced that Chancellor Kiesler and Pat Morton would attend the December 16 meeting to discuss "modeling". The next IFC meeting would be held November 15.

Action Items

None were on the agenda, but see below for two motions that were passed with suspension of rules.

Discussion Items

Plus/Minus Grading Report. Professor Prewitt introduced the report on Plus/Minus grading (see Appendix I). Questions were raised why grades were stated, e.g., as 2.3 and 2.7, not, for instance, as 2.5, or alternatively as 2.333 and 2.667. Council was reminded of the forthcoming executive order mandating uniformity across the four campuses. The only change likely in the executive order will be the introduction of an A+ grade, already in use at the UMKC Law School; otherwise, it specifies .3 and .7 grades. Professor Salter observed that +/- grades braked the rush to all A's and B's. Professor Prewitt observed that +/-grading initially increased the number of grade appeals. Professor Lane observed that a lot of people already unofficially assigned pluses and minuses, but had no way to translate them into a student's record. Provost Brouder observed that the forthcoming executive order allowing +/- grading would come before IFC.

Professor Winfield found it shocking when she came here that +/- grading was not already practiced, and thanked the committee for its work. Professor Lane moved (Plummer second) that the rules be suspended so we could recommend the new grading system to the faculty at the next general faculty meeting. The motion to suspend the rules passed unanimously. Professor Lane then moved (Plummer second) that we endorse and recommend that the faculty approve the report of the steering committee on +/- grading. Professor Hunvald observed that the best way for the faculty to vote on the recommendation would be by mail ballot. The motion carried unanimously.

Midterm Grades. The report of the Academic Affairs Committee on early term feedback and midterm grades (see Appendix II) was presented to Council for discussion. It was clarified, in regard to the midterm grades, that if there was no grade yet to report, none would have to be reported. Professor Sentilles felt there was some danger that students who did not get D's or F's at midterm would feel they were assured at least a C for the semester.

Health Care Insurance. The letter from Chancellor Kiesler inviting community physicians to join the POS and HMO plans had been distributed at the beginning of the meeting as had the article from the most recent Columbia Daily Tribune reporting President Russell's rejection of the faculty petition for a six month delay in implementing the new health insurance scheme.

Chairman Hunvald spoke of the committee mentioned by the Chancellor to oversee the operation of the new health insurance plan after it went into effect. Professor Winfield wanted to hear from the physicians on Council as to their reaction to events. Professors Dix, Bauer, and Penney made the following points. As they saw it there were two businesses in competition, GenCare Sanus and the Christian Hospital Systems. Economics would govern whether other physicians would join the HMO. The ideas of managed care and the teaching-research mission of University Physicians were on a collision course. However, it was better for this to be threshed out here before the federal government came in. They too complained of the short time frame. Chairman Hunvald pointed out that President Russell's action, in rejecting the request for a six month delay, was not unexpected, but that the faculty meeting had impressed on the central administration the necessity to answer specific questions with specific information.

The physicians commented on the financial impact of the new system on them, especially loss of income, when they themselves underwrote many of their own expenses. Professor Winfield thanked the physicians for their candor, and expressed her amazement that things had happened so fast.

Professor Sentilles spoke of the fact that faculty traveled so much, and spoke of the possibility of rider policies for those who traveled. He was not satisfied with reassurances given so far, but prophesied a tooth-and-nail fight to get retroactive coverage for expenses incurred elsewhere. Professor Plummer emphasized the need for an absolute limit on out-of-pocket expenses. Professor Miller then stated that many of his colleagues had seen the new health plan as a scam to salvage the revenues of the University Hospital.

Professor Bauer stated that the 25 percent cut taken by University Physicians would have to be made up by seeing more people in less time, at the expense of research and teaching. The university saw the Medical School as a cash cow, and it had already taken a big hit before this. Professor Penney spoke of the problems created by indigent care. Professor Miller then spoke of the impotence of the Faculty Council or any other such body to influence the course of events. We need a union, a powerful, unified voice which the administration would have to deal with. He then moved, "that the Faculty Council invite representatives of the relevant professional and labor organizations to campus to conduct an informational session and to enable the faculty, if it chooses, to select one or the other of these organizations to serve as its collective bargaining agent." He further stated that currently we have general faculty meetings, blow off steam, and then we crawl back to our offices and wait until the next crisis comes along.

Professor Pearsall seconded the motion. Professor Sentilles spoke of the necessity for Faculty Council to draw up very specific, pointed requests of the administration. Professor Bauer said he did not support the motion, as a mechanism already existed. Chairman Hunvald stated that the decisions were made system-wide and the IFC was the proper body for discussion, and that its efforts had led to the concessions already made.

Professor Miller asked whether it would not be better to negotiate as equals, rather than supplicate. We were amateurs, whereas the leaders of a union were by definition professionals. He then moved to suspend the rules to vote on his own motion. The motion to suspend the rules was seconded and passed unanimously. Discussion on the main motion centered on what organizations should be invited -- the National Education Association, National Federation of Teachers, and American Association of University Professors were specifically mentioned; and, whether the forum called for should be held as part of the existing series of University Forums. Professor Bauer still did not see how this motion would solve the current problem. Professor Lane stressed that it was not merely the matter of health care, but the recurring situation of the university; and, that he would like to see the motion passed to get the ball rolling. Professor Sentilles said that he did not really want to be part of a union, but since the administration more and more treated the university as a business, he did not see what else we could do. The motion passed 10 to 9.

The Endorsement of the Reports of the Task Forces on Retention and Advisement. Postponed due to the lateness of the hour.

Standing Committee Reports

Academic Affairs (Hildegarde Heymann)

No report.

Faculty Affairs (Jean Hamilton)

No report.

Fiscal Affairs (John Miles)

No report.

Special Projects (Dean Schmidt)

No report.

Student Affairs (Brent Jones)

Glen Pierce reported on positive meetings with Vice Chancellor Schroeder.

Committee on Undergraduate Education

No report.

Closed Session for Committee Assignments, Personnel Items, and Adjournment

Geta Leseur Brown was appointed to replace Carolyn Dorsey on the Admission Review Committee. Debora Bell-Dolan, James Williams, and Pauline Landhuis were appointed as additional members on the Residential Life Committee.

The meeting was adjourned at 5:05 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Eugene N. Lane, Recorder

Appendix I

MU Faculty Council's Steering Committee on Plus/Minus Grading is presented by:

October 20, 1993

Michael Prewitt, Chairman, Health Related Professions
Allen Bluedorn, Management
C. B. Chastain, Veterinary Medicine
Ken Dean, School of Law
Jere Gillis, Rural Sociology
David Guell, Civil Engineering
Stevie Hoffman, Department of Education
Craig Israelsen, Consumer & Family Economics
Thomas Kochtanek, Information Science
Bill Kurtz, School of Natural Resources
Rita Patton, Nursing
Glenn Pierce, Romance Languages
Steven Sagar, Graduate Professional Council
Gary Smith, Registrar
Barry Stinson, Missouri Student Association
Nancy Stull, Coord. of Student Services
Ted Tarkow, Arts & Science
Mike Underwood, Arts and Sciences
Dwight Williams, School of Journalism
Marvin Zatzman, School of Medicine
MU Faculty Council's Steering Committee on Plus/Minus Grading


Assessment is described as a process of gathering data and assembling evidence into an interpretable form for some intended use. Whether it be for improving the quality of instruction in a course or program, or to satisfy state-mandated requirements for evaluating student progress or academic program success, assessment has received considerable attention. Individual faculty members are responsible for assessing students in order to help them learn and improve their individual performance. Probably one of the most challenging, yet necessary tasks faced by faculty members is the process of assigning grades. Some faculty feel that grading serves a necessary sorting function that differentiates the more capable student from the less capable student, while others might say that grading serves no useful purpose and may even interfere with the learning process. Nonetheless, faculty are faced with the problems of evaluating the progress of students toward mastery of what is being learned. Grades are used to communicate effectively to a variety of audiences (students, faculty, administrators, and employers) the degree of academic achievement or competence of individual students. The validity and usefulness of grades serve the following purposes: conveying information on student achievement, providing incentives for students to study, serving as selection criteria, helping in the evaluation and monitoring of the instructional process, and assisting students in educational and occupational planning.

During the past five years, there has been discussion at MU about alternative grading systems, namely plus/minus grading, as a way to report in a more precise manner student's academic performance. A report by the Task Force on Assessment in 1989 suggested that "the MU Faculty Council should strongly consider adopting a plus/minus grading system, provided the full administrative and other costs of changing grading systems are funded by new appropriations, rather than through budget reallocations." Later in April, 1991 the Executive Committee of the Arts & Science College went on record in support of a proposal that MU should adopt a plus/minus grading system. The report recommended the Faculty Council "examine, evaluate and seek campus expert advice on the available research data pertaining to plus/minus grading". In addition, the proposal suggested surveying both faculty and students on this issue. Little progress has been made on this issue until the Steering Committee on Plus/Minus grading was formed by the MU Faculty Council on University Policy on November 19, 1992. The charge to the committee was to develop an operational proposal for implementation of a plus/minus grading system on the MU campus. Membership on the Steering Committee includes representatives from the following areas: Missouri Student Association, Graduate Professional Council, Graduate Faculty Senate, Advisor's Forum, Undergraduate Deans Group, Faculty Council, Admissions and Registrar and a faculty member from each division.


October 20, 1993

Proposed Plus/Minus Grading System

Recommendations of the Steering Committee on Plus/Minus Grading

1. The Plus/Minus Steering Committee recommends the Faculty Council on University Policy consider the following plus/minus grading system, which is a modification of our present 4-point grading system. The undergraduate level system is as follows:

A 4.00 Highest level of work
A- 3.70
B+ 3.30
B 3.00 Better than average work
B- 2.70
C+ 2.30
C 2.00 Average work
C- 1.70
D+ 1.30
D 1.00 Below average work
D- .70
F 0 Failing work

The graduate grading system is as follows:
A 4.00 Highest level of work
A- 3.70
B+ 3.30
B 3.00 Better than average work
B- 2.70
C+ 2.30
C 2.00 Average work
C- 1.70
F 0 Failing work

2. This recommendation and the recommendations that follow are based upon the premise that the grade range from plus to minus is considered to be equivalent to the current letter grade range. In other words, a student currently awarded a "C" in a course has, in fact, been awarded a grade in the "C range" which, under the proposed plus/minus plan would include "C-", "C", and "C+".

3. Our recommendation pertains only to the grading scale. Faculty members should understand that adopting the new plus/minus scale will not affect any university requirements. All university regulations currently announced in the catalog will be considered binding, to be interpreted as follows:

A. All regulations currently tied to a specific GPA will remain exactly as they are (eg., GPA of 2.0 required for undergraduate students to remain in good academic standing; 3.0 for graduate students to remain in good standing; 3.50 for cum laude, etc.).

B. All regulations currently applicable on a course by course basis and currently tied to a specific letter grade would be interpreted to mean a specific letter grade range. Hence, if a student currently must achieve a "C" in one course in order to proceed to another course, under the proposed plus/minus system, that student would have to achieve a grade in the "C range," to include "C-".

C. All regulations currently tied to a specific grade average would be interpreted to mean the numerical average currently associated with that specific grade. Hence, the required "C average or better" on all courses would be interpreted as "2.0 average or better."

D. The grade of "S" (on a S/U basis) is defined as equivalent to the letter grade range of "C" or higher.

4. Each college/division will review its current regulations as stated in the catalog and make any changes it deems necessary to clarify its program requirements in light of the plus/minus system.

5. Implementation of this plus/minus grading system will begin Fall Semester 1994.

6. It should be noted that under the proposed plan, faculty members would not be required to assign plus/minus grades. Regardless if faculty members use pluses and minuses, they should provide the instructional objectives and the evaluation (grading) measures at the beginning of the course. If adopted, this system would make incremental grades available to faculty members desiring to use them.

Rationale for the Adoption of a Plus/Minus Grading System

A. The proposed modification of the current grading scale to include pluses and minuses will allow faculty members to make finer distinctions within a given letter grade (B+, B or B-) and between two contiguous letter grades (A-/B+, B-/C+).

B. The adoption of a plus/minus system would improve the student environment by enabling the traditional faculty evaluations of student classroom performance to be more fair and precise (as stated in the recommendations of the UMC Faculty Task Force on Assessment, September 29, 1988 and approved by the faculty in 1989).

C. Measurement experts contend that expanding the letter grade scale may result in more accuracy in grading while reducing grading errors due to grouping (the tendency of grades to group in one or two letter grade areas).

D. The reliability of grades has been reported to improve using a plus/minus grading system, particularly when there is a distribution of grades concentrated at the high end of the scale. This reduction in discrimination seen in the traditional 4-point scale has been reported to affect (on the negative side) the reliability and predictive validity of GPAs.

E. In a report, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) noted an increase in the number of institutions using plus/minus grading systems. Similar 4-point grading systems are currently used at many institutions, among them are the University of Michigan, Iowa State, University of Nebraska, University of Idaho, UNC-Chapel Hill, SUNY Albany, Washington State University and Florida State University. Recently, UMSL and UMKC have approved plus/minus grading systems, corresponding to the one proposed above, and have begun implementation.

The AACRAO report confirmed earlier findings and indicated a trend toward the increasing use of pluses and minuses for expanding the number of grading categories for evaluating students.

Appendix II

Academic Affairs Committee

October 21, 1993

Based on the discussion in the Committee we recommend:

Early term feedback to students:

All instructors are encouraged to supply grade feedback to students by week 4 of Fall and Winter semesters. This information is especially essential to students who are averaging D's and F's at this time. This feedback would allow students to take appropriate action either to work at improving their grades for the semester or to drop the course without penalty.

Midterm grades:

All instructors will supply grades of students scoring D or F to the registrar's office by midterm (week 8 of Fall and Winter semesters). The registrar will then notify the students of their current status in the course. This feedback would allow students to take appropriate action possibly to improve their grades for the semester.