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Faculty Council endorses contextual grade reporting

Issues of academic quality and academic freedom took center stage at the April 23 Faculty Council meeting.

Now that the legislative process has begun to determine next year’s budget, Chancellor Holden Thorp talked about the impact of significant cuts on academics (see related budget story).

He also discussed the new Academic Plan, the statement of Carolina’s objectives and priorities that serves as a roadmap for the future.

“We’re excited to hear from the campus community what you want us to work on and what you want our to-do list to be,” Thorp said, referring to the 18-member steering committee for the new plan, led by Bill Andrews from the College of Arts and Sciences and Sue Estroff from the School of Medicine.

“I’m ready to get my marching orders,” Thorp said.

Estroff described the goals of the new Academic Plan, which aims to balance “informed aspiration with the tyranny of pragmatism.”

The steering committee identified six main themes: creating transformative educational experiences; recruiting and retaining top faculty; finding new opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration; promoting inclusivity and diversity; enhancing scholarship with real-world applications; and extending a global presence.

“This is not your usual plan,” she said. “It isn’t like a term paper; it will become a working document we use as the basis for negotiation and discussion. What’s going to make this plan work and not just be another report is you.”

The subcommittees examining the themes have been asked to produce up to five concrete, feasibility-tested ideas by fall, she said.

Also in the fall, the campus will be engaged in broad discussion. In the meantime, people can send ideas to academicplan@unc.edu. Thorp recently recorded a video about the Academic Plan, posted below:

 

Council members also approved the “On Enhanced Grade Reporting” resolution in which the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) proposed a new system for contextual reporting of undergraduate grades.

The proposed system is intended to make it easier to interpret grades on individual transcripts by providing specific information about each course section and to provide ongoing information about departmental and campuswide grading practices.

“We see this as a sunshine measure to get more information out there about grading practices,” said Andrew Perrin, committee chair.

The EPC recommended the resolution as a first step toward grade reform. In tracking grading practices at Carolina since 2000, the EPC found that grade inflation, grade compression and grade inequality have made it difficult to interpret the meaning of grades at UNC.

“Our concern as a committee is that this reform doesn’t go far enough, but given the resources the University is able to commit and the wide range of opinions on grading policy, our thinking is that this is a good beginning to a long-term conversation and strategy about grading,” Perrin said.

A committee will be appointed this fall to work with the offices of the Registrar and Provost in carefully planning and implementing the reporting system process, he said. “We take the view that this is about the next century, not the next year.”

In other updates, Thorp said former Congressman Tom Tancredo would be on campus Monday evening (after the Gazette went to press) to speak. He was invited by the recognized student group Youth for Western Civilization, and the University has worked closely with the YWC on the event. Tancredo was here last spring but was unable to finish his talk because of disruptive protesters.

“We are hopeful that Mr. Tancredo will be able to give his talk and people who disagree with him will be able to make their voices known,” Thorp said. “This is compatible with the approach our campus has taken to free speech over the years.”

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