All Wittenberg students will be issued midterm grades beginning next semester following a Nov. 6 voice vote of the Wittenberg faculty and eight members of Student Senate invited to participate in the session.
Under the previous policy, only those students performing at the level of C- or lower were notified of their midterm grades. Under the new policy, those same students will be given additional feedback as to the reasons for their grades.
The policy change also makes it possible for instructors to ask that their classes be exempt from the policy for “pedagogical reasons” and adjusts the timing of the midterm grade notice to the Wednesdays following spring and fall breaks. The extension is to allow professors additional time to complete the necessary grading.
The answers of 40 respondents to a non-sanctioned survey of 350 students on Oct. 31 suggests the changes will be welcomed by students.
Ninety-four percent of students responding answered “yes” to the question, “Should midterm grades be sent automatically to all students regardless of marks?” Fifteen percent affirmed that they have reached out to a professor after receiving a midterm notice.
Although one professor said the measure passed “handily,” faculty seemed divided on the issue and offered a range of answers in response to the Torch’s request for emailed comments.
Michael Mattison, an English professor and the director of the university Writing Center, was an enthusiastic yes vote.
“Quite simply, for me, this request is for faculty to perform their most basic responsibility: assess students in a fair and timely manner. That’s our job,” Mattison said.
Rob Baker, of political science, said the change gives “more information to students and staff who can help with students who are struggling,” something Art professor Scott Dooley said could allow them “to make the necessary adjustments during the second half of the semester.”
Dean of Students Casey Gill said it was “great for students to receive feedback regardless of their performance.”
Although he said he had no objection to the changes, history professor Thomas Taylor said he “understands why some people might see this as overkill” because “I doubt that many students are in the dark about the state of their grades at the midpoint.”
Mathematics professor Douglas Andrews also said “students have a certain responsibility to maintain a sense of how their doing,” one he encourages by providing a list of graded items so they can do the calculating themselves.
Other professors expressed concerns about the increasing bureaucratization of education with measures not proven to be of help; of students’ tendency to focus more on grades than on learning; of the measure’s interference in the student-professor relationship; and over the greater burden last-minute grading will cause in some departments.
English professor Michael McClelland said his mind was changed by the discussion at the faculty meeting. “I was opposed to the rule at first, but the student representatives …. convinced me that the rule change would benefit Witt students.”
Interim Provost Dr. Mary Jo Zembar said that although the policy will be in place for the spring semester, it “will need president and board approval to be reflected in our published documents (e.g. the academic catalog),” actions scheduled to take place during the summer.