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Volume 68, Issue 82, January 27, 2003


'Q' may cure GPA woes

By Nikie Johnson
Senior Staff Writer

Jane Doe is in trouble. She thought she wanted to be an engineer, but now she thinks her lifeis calling might be psychology.

It doesnit help that sheis having problems in one of her 2000-level engineering classes. In fact, sheis failing it. Itis too late in the semester for her to drop, but she knows she has no chance to pass.

Her options are to suffer through the semester, drop the class and take an F, or hope her professor will bend the rules and let her withdraw, even though sheis failing.

Jane Doe is an obvious fabrication, but her situation is real for many UH students. However, if a policy now being considered by the Office of the Provost is implemented, future students who find themselves in trouble will have another option available: the Q grade.

If itis accepted, which one person in the provostis office says is likely, students could quit up to three 1000- or 2000-level classes throughout their academic careers. After the last drop day passes, if a student wants to get out of a class but is failing, he or she can elect to receive a Q. This would reflect a student is failing, but it wouldnit affect GPA.

"I anticipate it will pass," Brian McKinney, director of academic program management, said of the proposal. "Probably within a month or so."

Dave Shattuck, associate professor of electrical engineering said he brought the idea to the Undergraduate Council last Spring semester because he saw countless students in the above scenario over the years.

"I have thought we needed it for years," Shattuck said. "Students ought to be able to get out if theyire ready to drop, and not have GPA ramifications."

After debate the Undergraduate Council recommended the policy to Provost Edward P. Sheridan.

The provostis office then "shopped it around" during the summer and fall, McKinney said, taking it to the Graduate and Professional Studies Council, the Council of Deans, the Associate Deans Group, the Council of Chairs and the Faculty Senate for input.

The policy had encountered resistance from some who donit approve of it.

"I donit think itis a good idea," said Seth Chandler, a law professor and the associate dean of academic affairs for the Law Center. "Itis hiding information about studentsi performance by giving students who are flunking a chance to get out."

He said he was relieved the Graduate and Professional Studies Council decided not to let graduate students use the Q grade, so he wonit have to use the policy if it is implemented.

Although students who quit a class would have a Q on their transcripts, Chandler said the policy is still obscuring the truth.

Many graduate programs look at applicantsi GPA and standardized test scores. "If those numbers are above some threshold, the file may not be scrutinized," he said.

Chandler, who serves on the Associate Deans Group, said he knows some students get in over their heads, and this policy is meant to help them, but that may not always be the case.

"Itis hard to distinguish the student who honestly makes a mistake from one who (is manipulating the system)," he said.

Shattuck said he has heard the argument that the policy would be hiding information, but disagrees. Grading policy says students who opt out of a class after the last drop date are supposed get a W (withdrew) only if they are passing, but Shattuck said he heard from many faculty members that they often gave students Ws even if they were failing out of sympathy.

Shattuck said he thinks professors will be more likely to obey the rules if they have this option, so a W will mean what itis supposed to mean.

"I believe that this will be a more accurate representation of studentsi performance," he said.

Although the philosophical debate over whether the Q-drop policy is helpful or harmful might go on endlessly, McKinney said the provost will probably accept it as recommended by the Undergraduate Council last week, and it will be ready for use by Fall 2004.

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