November 22, 1999
Proposal to eliminate 'narratives' goes before Academic Senate
By Jim Burns
"The Narrative Evaluation System has an honorable history, but times have changed and a new approach to grading is required," the petitioners said. "A new approach will help us to attract and retain students with strong academic records, to maintain the integrity of our curricula, and to communicate the quality of our students accurately and concisely to graduate and professional schools and prospective employers."
Specifically, the promoters of the change are asking that the following features of the University of California's grading system be implemented:
In short, the proposal would make grades, currently an option that students can choose in addition to receiving narrative evaluations for each quarter's work, the backbone of UCSC's student evaluation system.
The changes outlined in the resolution would take effect on September 1, 2001. The Academic Senate currently lists 588 members, including emeriti faculty, who are eligible to vote on the resolution.
The December 3 meeting marks the third time this decade that UCSC's long-standing Narrative Evaluation System (NES) has been the subject of an Academic Senate debate. In an informational action intended to guide NES deliberations by the senate's Committee on Educational Policy, senate members participated in a spirited debate in June 1993 before voting to maintain NES in its present form.
In the fall of 1996, however, senate members voted by a two-to-one margin to permit new and continuing students to request letter grades for all classes, beginning in fall 1997. The change retained the NES, but enabled new students to accumulate a grade point average. During this past academic year, approximately one-third of UCSC's students requested grades.
Opponents of both the 1993 and 1996 proposals argued that the changes would erode UCSC's tradition of emphasizing learning over grades.
The December 3 meeting was called by Roger Anderson, chair, at the request of eighteen members of the senate; according to senate bylaws, a written request from at least ten members must be submitted before a special meeting can be called.