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June 11, 2001 - Image 2

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2001-06-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

2 - The Michigan Daily -= Monday, June 11, 2001

- _ - -

"Our concer
A N G N Gadversely aI'
RC students to receive letter grades

n Is that the RC philosophy of education may be
'ected by the Introduction of letter grades."


By Sarb ett
For the Daily
Nothing lasts forever, and neither
does a long-standing tradition within
the Residential College. Designed to
discourage competitiveness among stu-
dents and encourage improvesent and
learning, the RC's policy of awarding
written evaluations in lieu of letter
grades will change this fall.
For the first time since the RC was
formed more than 35 years ago, RC
students will receive letter grades in
addition to written evaluations, with a
few exceptions.
Not affected by the new policy are
classes under the RC foreign language
program - intensive classes in Russ-
ian, Spanish, French, German and
Latin. The classes, which require stu-
dents to take 8 credits worth of a lan-
guage for two semesters, are designed
differently from other classes. Because

the classes are intensive and students
are expected to learn a wide variety of
skills in a short amount of time, stu-
dents pass to the next level based on
end-of-the-semester performance as
opposed to the more standard cumula-
tive performance, which factors in
work throughout the semester.
The new policy only applies to this
year's freshman class and subsequent
Several factors contributed to the
policy changes, said Thomas
Weiskopf, director of the RC.
"We were getting an increasing
number of requests for GPAs for RC
students and while, in the past, we
could provide an estimate, we could
not provide an official GPA," he said.
The change also follows the recom-
mendation of an externalreview commit-
tee that analyzed the college a few years
ago and recommended the RC offer
grades as well as written evaluations.

The decision to implement letter
grades has not been without controversy.
To gather input the RC created the RC
Working Group on Evaluations and
Grades, which has been working on this
issue for the last year and will continue
to work through next year.
"Our concern is that the RC philos-
ophy of education may be adversely
affected by the introduction of letter
grades," Weiskopf said, adding, "This
has been a very controversial matter
since it began to be discussed a few
years ago and opinions remain divided
on the wisdom of the move."
Warren Hecht, Assistant Director for
Academic Services for the RC and head
of the creative writing program, has been
teaching in the RC for more than 30
years and has yet to give a student a let-
ter grade. "It's something I've been
thinking about a lot," he said, "how to
put a letter grade on a creative writing
paper. One of the purposes of grading
simply by written evaluation is that it
makes the classes non-competitive. Per-
haps receiving grades will put students
in a more competitive frame of mind."
Hecht added he feels grades will give
the RC a different atmosphere. "I'm
sure the students will do very well, but it
won't be the same for those of us who
continue to remember."
RC students also remain divided as
to whether or not letter grades have a
place in the RC. -
RC junior Gia Jones disagrees with
the new policy implementing grades.

Thomas Welskopf, Director of the Residential College, faces a policy Cho
some say could harm the learning philosophy of the college.


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"I actually wouldn't have even
applied to U of M if there wasn't a
program like the RC," she said.
Jones said receiving a written evalu-
ation pushed her to learn more than
just the questions that are covered on
tests in graded courses. "I was never a
big fan of grades or tests because it just
shows how good someone is at memo-
rizing things and regurgitating it back
to the teacher, so when I saw that the
RC did evaluations instead of grades I
jumped at the chance to finally be in an
educational situation where I would be
expected to actually learn and gain
more knowledge to merge with what I
already knew," she said.
Even though Jones will not receive
grades, she said she still feels slight-
ed by the change. "(The change) says
to me that because the school I'm in
is so small, it doesn't matter, and
even though its set-up works well for
me and my learning style and maxi-
mizes the intellectual gain I get from

attending this university, it still doe
n't matter. It's like the RC was
square peg and its ends were roundt
out so it could fit in a circular hole.'
RC junior Luke Carmichael said I
believes the changes are for the bette
He said he believes the written evalu
tions, when coupled with letter grade
would provide more information a
a student and that grades mi1
encourage competitiveness betwee
students, causing them to learn more.
Carmichael also said the impl<
mentation of grades could mean R
classes would be less likely to b
treated as "blow-offs."
Although she said both policies hav
advantages and disadvantages, RC sopt
omore Sarah Nisbett agrees wit
Carmichael because she believes tht
placing grades and evaluations toget
create a better system than just recein
grades or just receiving evaluations.
"I wish we had that for our class
she said. "I feel like we missed out."


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