Demystifying the proposed system
The Recording Committee will conclude a student poll today
in which students are being asked their opinion of the proposal to institute
a plus/minus grading system in place of the current system of straight
The information that the Committee collects will be presented
to the Faculty in March, with a possible Faculty vote in April. If the
Faculty votes to change the system, the Recording Committee would likely
favor instituting the policy as early as next semester.
Because it would be difficult for faculty to have different
students on different grading systems, especially in the same class, the
Recording Committee would likely favor placing all students on the plus/minus
system, meaning that the current first-year, sophomore, and junior classes
would have transcripts with straight letter grades for the current and
past academic years and plus and minus grades for future years.
Under the proposed system, faculty members would have ten
categories in which to place students: A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D,
and F. "A" grades would still be equivalent to four points,
"Bs" three points, "Cs" two points, "Ds"
one point, and "Fs" zero points.
Plus grades would be 0.3 points higher than the straight
letter grade, and minus grades would be 0.3 points lower than the straight
letter grade. A "B+," then, would be equivalent to 3.3 points,
while a "B-" would be equivalent to only 2.7 points. (See accompanying
The changes in numerical equivalents would mean that students
who got minus grades would receive lower grade points than they do under
the current system. On the other hand, students who get plus grades would
receive higher grade points than they do under the current system.
Currently, a "B+", "B-", and "B"
are all worth three points. Under the proposed system, a "B+"
would be worth 3.3 points, a "B-" would be worth 2.7 points,
and a straight "B" would still be worth three points. No "A+"
is proposed, nor would "Ds" or "Fs" be divided into
plus and minus categories.
If the proposed system were adopted, the criteria for honors
would remain the same, but the method used to calculate GPA would be according
to the plus/minus numerical equivalents.
The Recording Committee has been seriously considering the
change in grading systems since September, and a faculty poll was conducted
at the end of last semester.
Bowdoin is the only college in our 18-college comparison
group that does not have a plus/minus grading system.
A plus/minus system was proposed to the Faculty in 1997, but it was defeated.