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B-School Changes Grading

Students Hope New System Will Reduce Competition


When first-year Business School students begin receiving fall semester grades tomorrow, they will find Roman numerals awaiting them in place of the B-School's traditional adjective grades.

Instead of receiving "Excellent," "Satisfactory," "Low Pass" or "Unsatisfactory," B-School students will be graded on a numerical basis, from I to IV, with one as the highest mark.

The campaign for change resulted from widespread student discontent with the school's grading curve, according to second-year student David Ull, chairman of the B-School education committee which first proposed revising the system.

In the fall of 1985, an 18-member student committee first launched its campaign to de-emphasize grade competition. When the 190-member B-School faculty approved the change last spring, they added a clause requiring professors to write in-depth evaluations of a student's performance to accompany each category III or IV grade.

These reports will be destroyed unless the student becomes one of the four percent of first-year students reviewed each year by the B-School's academic performance committee, according to Thomas Bonoma, director of the MBA program.

Students come under review when Category III and IV grades account for more than half of their credits.

Under the old system, professors had to assign Low Passes or Unsatisfactories to 10 to 15 percent and Excellents to 15 to 20 percent of the students in each of 18 class sections into which B-School students are randomly placed.

Ull said one major change the committee brought about was the institution of a 10 percent limit on the number of students whose grades would fall into the lower two categories. The committee did not receive enough support from the student body to propose the elimination of the curve system, he added.

Second-year students, who operate on a different academic schedule than the first-year students, received their grades early last month. Accustomed to seeing "E's," "SAT's," "LOOP's," and "UNSAT's," many students in their second year were bewildered by the numbers in front of them.

"Even if you read the memo, you had to take pause and remember whether a 'I' was good or a 'I' was bad," said second-year student James Kopetsky.

But many first year-student do not feel affected by the change. "If they're going to call it a 'LooP' [low pass] or a 'III,' it still means the same thing, doesn't it?" said first-year student Kevin Alternatt.

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