GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
CALLED MEETING OF THE GENERAL FACULTY
MEETING OF THE ACADEMIC SENATE
ANNUAL MEETING OF THE ACADEMIC FACULTY
Student Center Theater
1. The President opened the meeting at . He welcomed the members and offered the following comments on matters of interest to the Georgia Tech community:
a. The Legislature has completed the amended 03 budget, which turned out to be favorable to the University System; it restored some MRR funds and provided support for GRA; it did not cause us to absorb any additional cuts this fiscal year. The budget for 04 has been very difficult for the Legislature; several options for “revenue enhancement” are being considered – some of which can avoid similar problems in the 05 budget. There will be no salary increases in the 04 budget. At this point, no additional cuts have been assigned to the University System.
b. Tuition and fees will likely go up more than they would normally because of the significant cuts in State budget we have had. The $18M budget cut we have had represents nearly 10% of our State budget; it is equivalent to 180 faculty positions, which is huge for an Institute with nearly 800 faculty members. The Board of Regents will decide on tuition increases at their next meeting; there will likely be a differential tuition increase for the Research Universities. We will let our incoming students know what their tuition will be as soon as the Board of Regents decides. Despite the recent increases, our current undergraduate tuition for in-State students is twentieth out of 21 institutions in our peer group, and $2000 below the average for that group.
c. Considerable demands have been placed on Georgia
Tech and other institutions because of the new tracking and visa requirements
for our foreign students and visitors.
We have approximately 3000 international students for whom the new SEVIS
system (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) requires us to enter
data (address, matriculation status, etc.) every term; in other words, 9000
sets of data have to be entered every year, which represents a considerable
increase in work load for our Office of International Education. Additionally, there are concerns that if it
becomes increasingly difficult to get visas, many of those highly-talented
students and visitors may opt not to come to the
A comment was made that as a
result of the differential tuition between institutions in the University
System, more Georgia Tech students are petitioning the Undergraduate Curriculum
Committee to simultaneously enroll at other institutions (e.g.
2. The President called for approval of the minutes of
previous meetings, which were posted on the web: (1) Combined meeting of the
General Faculty Assembly and Academic Senate (
3. The President called on Dr. Marc Smith, Chair of the
Statutes Committee to present a recommended change to the Statutes/Bylaws. Smith presented a “second reading” for
the recommended change to section 126.96.36.199.(b)(1) of the Bylaws. The change deals with increasing the size of
the Faculty Honors Committee from four to six elected members. He indicated that the change was requested by
the Faculty Honors Committee and endorsed by the Executive Board; it was
motivated by the recognition that the range of expertise among the current
small committee membership may not be sufficiently broad to evaluate candidates
for the various faculty awards. The
first reading was approved by the Faculty on
4. The President called on Ms. Jo McIver
(Registrar) to present the degree candidates for the Spring Commencement. The Registrar indicated that the list of
degree candidates for the Spring 2003 commencement has been circulated to the
Academic Departments. It was moved that all candidates who
complete their requirements by on
President called on Dr. Farrokh Mistree, Co-Chair of the Institute Oversight
Committee (IOC) for Post-Tenure Review (PTR) to present the Committee’s final
report and recommendations. Copies of the final report of the IOC committee, along with
the slides used in the presentation, are attached (see #5 and 6 below). Mistree presented a list of committee
members -- seven faculty members and six administrators (Deans of the six
colleges); Dr. McMath (V. Provost) also served on the committee as
co-Chair. Mistree indicated that the
Committee previously reported to the faculty on
The first of the two remaining issues, namely, application of the process to tenured faculty with administrative titles other than unit chairs and above (e.g. Associate Chairs), was then discussed. Mistree indicated that faculty in that group are to be covered by the Periodic Peer Review Process; the question raised at the September 17, 2002 meeting was whether they would be allowed to serve on unit-level review committees since the policy states that such committees should consist of tenured, non-administrative, academic faculty. He indicated that the IOC recommends that this question should be decided by the faculty in each individual unit, and that the decision must be reviewed by the faculty (in each unit) at least once every five years. The second issue deals with the appeals and grievance process associated with Periodic Peer Reviews. The questions are: (1) how can a faculty member get a unit-level committee recommendation reversed? and (2) how should a grievance related to the PPR “process” be handled? The IOC recommends that upon receipt of the review outcome, a candidate may appeal to the President to overturn a unit-level recommendation, and that grievances related to the application of the PPR process should be handled by the Faculty Status and Grievance Committee under Section 188.8.131.52 of the Statutes.
It was moved that the Georgia Tech Faculty endorses the additional recommendations of the Institute Oversight Committee for Post-Tenure Review as documented on Pages 6 and 7 of the presentation (Attachment #6).
A question was raised as to whether the faculty member to be selected by a candidate to serve as an “advocate” on the unit-level PPR committee must be from the same unit as the candidate, a different unit within Georgia Tech, or from outside Georgia Tech. Mistree responded by stating that the intent is for the advocate to be a faculty member in the same unit as the candidate. A question was raised as to the criteria to be used in evaluating tenured faculty with administrative titles who are covered by the PPR process. Mistree responded by indicating that the Policy (Attachment # 5) spells out the evaluation criteria for periodic peer reviews. The default criteria are those used by the unit for promotion and tenure; alternate criteria may be applied to reflect the varying emphases and roles that a faculty member may have. Responsibility for formulating the individualized alternate criteria lies with the unit head, in consultation with the candidate. The policy also describes how such criteria should be documented, and how situations in which an agreement regarding such criteria could not be reached between the faculty member and the unit head should be resolved.
The motion was approved without dissent. The President thanked Dr. Mistree and the entire IOC committee for their hard work and contributions to improving an important process for the Institute.
The President called on Dr. Miroslav Begovic (ECE),
Chair of the Student Academic and Financial Affairs Committee (SAFAC), and Ms.
Sandi Bramblett, Director of Institutional Research and Planning (IRP), to
present the SAFAC report on Grading and Grade Inflation at Georgia Tech. A copy
of the slides used in the presentation is attached. (See
Attachment #4 below). Dr. Begovic
indicated that in June 2002 the Committee was tasked by the Executive Board to
examine this issue as a follow-up to extensive discussions at an earlier
Academic Senate/General Faculty Assembly meeting (
Ms. Bramblett began her part of the presentation by stating the definition of grade inflation used by the committee: “the upward shift in grade point average of students over an extended period of time without a corresponding increase in student achievement.” She indicated that “grade compression,” which refers to the narrowing of the range between high and low grades was also examined by the committee, albeit to a lesser extent. She outlined the methodology used in the study, beginning with an extensive literature survey -- a great deal of literature exists about grade inflation, and the types of related statistical analyses which can be conducted. A survey of peer institutions, as well as other institutions which recently conducted studies on grade inflation, was conducted. Additionally, a statistical analysis of Georgia Tech data was performed. The study focused on the undergraduate level; it provided an historical perspective by using data covering nearly 30 years. An in-depth study was also conducted using data from the last ten years to identify differences between lower and upper level courses, as well as differences among individual departments. She acknowledged the contributions of Ms. Leslie Hamm (IRP) who collected and analyzed the data.
list of Georgia Tech’s peer institutions was presented; it includes seven
private and 13 public institutions. In addition
to the peer institutions, data and studies from five other institutions were
reviewed: University of
Ms. Bramblett indicated that most of the peer institutions use a standard 4.0 grading scale, with letter grades ranging from “A” (excellent) to “F” (failure), and that fourteen peer institutions use some form of a +/- grading system, while Cal Tech and MIT use a Pass/Fail system in the freshman year. She enumerated the “symptoms” which may have caused the alarm with respect to this issue; median graduating class GPA at Princeton increased from 3.09 in 1973 to 3.36 in 2000; average GPA at Dartmouth increased from 2.70 in 1967 to 3.33 in 2001; more than half the grades awarded at Harvard during the past three years have been “A” -- over 90% of the 2001 Harvard graduating class graduated with Honors. At Georgia Tech, the average overall GPA in the Fall of 1985 was 2.59 versus 2.86 for Fall 2002. Charts showing the gradual rise in overall GPA at Georgia Tech and other institutions over the past 30 years were presented, all of which show consistent upward trends, with Harvard and Princeton at the top of the range and Georgia Tech at or near the bottom of the range (along with Purdue and Texas A&M). She indicated that in response to these trends, starting in Fall 2003, Harvard will switch from their 15-point grading scale to the traditional 4-point scale; additionally, Honor degrees will be awarded to a limited percentage of each graduating class.
Begovic continued the presentation focusing primarily on the Georgia Tech data. He began by discussing possible sources of grade inflation; several possible “external” and “internal” causes were enumerated, including the increased quality of incoming students as measured by their high school GPA, SAT and Admission Index, the increase in the percentage of female students, reduction in course loads, better teaching, variations among departments, and possible influence on course/instructor teaching evaluations. A table comparing the 2000 Freshman students’ anticipated grades against their actual cumulative GPA at the end of the first year at Georgia Tech was shown. Only one third of those who expected a grade in the 3.5 to 4.0 range actually achieved that goal; more than 50% of the students with anticipated grades of 2.5 and above failed to meet those expectations. Plots of the average high school GPA, SAT scores and GT Admissions Index for freshman cohorts over the past ten years show gradual upward trends. The relationship between the students’ performance (as measured by their Georgia Tech GPA) and their high school GPA, SAT scores, and GT Admissions Index during the past ten years was examined. While the overall trends are consistent, the scatter in the correlation is large. Trends of high school GPA over the past ten years for freshman cohorts with different ethnicity show consistent, gradually-increasing, trends. While the overall average freshman class high school GPA mildly correlates with the overall class average Georgia Tech GPA, the individual student’s high school GPA and his/her Georgia Tech GPA show very low correlation, probably due to the differences in the quality of high schools.
presented data for the effect of the instructor’s tenure status on grades for
two different terms; the data suggest that larger percentages of the highest
grades are assigned by non-tenured and non-tenure-track instructors, than those
assigned by tenured faculty. However,
the differences between tenured and tenure-track faculty appear to be
relatively small. Percentages of
different grades (A through F) assigned during three different years were
presented. Grade distribution data for
1000-level and 4000-level courses were separately presented. For 1000 level
courses the percentage of “A’s” increased from 31.8% in 1993 to 36.5% in 2002;
the corresponding numbers for 4000-level courses are 42.0% and 51.9%,
respectively. Similar data were
presented for individual colleges. For
1000-level classes, the College of Architecture had the largest increase in the
percentage of assigned A’s over the past ten years (from 53.39% to 79.30%),
while the college of computing showed a reduction from 29.30 to 26.92% during the same period. For 4000-level classes all colleges showed an
increase in the percentage of assigned A’s between 1993 and 2002; the increases
in the percentage of “A” grades ranged from 6.24% for the
Average grades assigned by the different departments during the Fall 1993 and Fall 2002 were presented. The data show large variations among the average grades assigned by various departments, with average grade points for all undergraduate courses ranging from 2.5 to more than 3.75. Of the 31 units examined, 20 reported higher assigned grades for 2002 than 1993. Begovic discussed possible implications of the observed trends on students, schools, and employers. Grade inflation may cause some of the best students to perform at less than their best, since high grades are easier to achieve; they may also look at other non-academic ways to distinguish themselves. For schools, grade inflation may lead to a drop in their perceived reputations. Grade inflation may also impact employers, inasmuch as they may look for alternate evaluation tools of job candidates, including personal recommendations, standardized tests, and closer examination of the courses taken by the students.
Begovic presented a list of possible mitigating actions including: (1) adoption of more clear and specific grade definitions, (2) adoption of a +/- grading system, (3) establishment of an Institute average GPA, (4) expansion of transcript data, (5) modification of the honors requirements, and (6) broad dissemination of grading definitions and policies. Additional mitigating actions were enumerated, including: (1) training of TA’s, adjunct faculty, and tenure-track faculty on grading definitions and policies, (2) conducting both self-calibrations and external calibrations of grade distributions, (3) external enforcement of grade distributions, (4) standardized testing, and (5) modification of student instructor/course evaluations. He presented an outline of the final report to be prepared by the committee; it begins with a chapter providing the scope of the study and definitions of the various terms, followed by a chapter on grading at Georgia Tech, which includes all the data analyses, as well as essays/opinions offered by faculty members, and responses provided by students. A chapter providing analyses of data from peer institutions will be included. Discussion, including sources of grade inflation, implications and remedies will be provided, followed by conclusions.
Begovic summarized the study’s conclusions. Statistically, there is reason to believe that some amount of grade inflation may exist; however, comparison with peer institutions, in terms of the relative position of Georgia Tech and the absolute magnitude of the changes, does not present a cause for alarm. The quality of incoming students is increasing; the effect of the increased student quality on the rising grades, particularly for the lower level courses, as well as the quality of “student experience,” is difficult to quantify. The tenure status of the instructors has an impact on the assigned grades. Finally, there is a non-uniform distribution of grades among departments, not to an alarming level, but, nevertheless, it needs to be further examined.
A comment was made that there are other attributes that one can look at besides the average GPA, which cover the two extremes of the grade distribution: (1) Is there an increased reluctance to fail students? and (2) Is there an increase in the number of students with perfect overall GPA? -- five years ago we may have had only two students graduating with a 4.0 overall GPA; this year we may have 30 students in that group. Begovic responded by indicating that the committee has not looked at the two extremes; nevertheless, there is a clear evidence of grade compression. A question was asked as to what was meant by the “quality of student experience” in the list of conclusions. Begovic responded by indicating that significant efforts have been recently devoted to increasing student retention through several initiatives; these have increased the percentage of students who complete their degrees, and the grades particularly in lower level courses. He indicated that one of the faculty essays included in the report points to the importance of improving the quality of undergraduate “student life” at Georgia Tech.
A comment was made that the conclusion states that “statistically there is grade inflation.” However, in looking at the definition of grade inflation (upward shift in GPA without corresponding increase in student achievement), the first part of the definition, namely the increase in GPA, can be easily seen from the data, while the second part, namely, lack of commensurate increase in achievement, has not been demonstrated. The increase in the quality of incoming students (high school GPA, SAT, and GT Admission Index), increased retention, and added efforts to tutor students particularly in lower level courses, are indicative of increased achievement. How can that change be measured? Begovic indicated that the committee was cautious not to claim or infer that grade inflation is a matter of alarm at Georgia Tech, especially in comparison to other institutions. The issue of “grade compression” needs to be addressed in order to be able to distinguish performance with a “higher resolution.”
A question was asked as to whether a State-wide study of grade inflation has been conducted since the HOPE Scholarship program was established. Bramblett indicated that only anecdotal evidence is available, which suggests that the HOPE Scholarship program has resulted in higher high school GPAs, and that some students “beg” the professors for a higher grade to maintain their scholarships. A question was asked as to whether data on the rise in the number of “withdrawals” is available and whether students are repeating classes to increase their grades. Bramblett indicated that such data are available, and that some of the HOPE scholarship recipients delay the time they reach the 30 credit-hour point by dropping a class so that they can continue to receive the scholarship for another term; as a result, we now have more than 2000 students who have not completed 30 credit-hours after two semesters, versus about 1400 in the past.
A question was asked regarding the correlation between the average freshman class high school GPA and GT GPA, and whether a similar correlation exists between the average SAT scores of incoming freshman and the GT GPA. Bramblett responded affirmatively, and indicated that a similar correlation was found, especially with Math grades. A comment was made that the lack of correlation between an individual student’s high school GPA and his/her GT GPA may be due to the fact that we are only looking at a small part of the spectrum, and that students had already been “pre-screened” when they were admitted to Georgia Tech.
comment was made that grades are used as a means to motivate students -- can
work hard and get an “A” or coast and get a “B,” which has led to grade
compression, particularly in the
[Note added by the Secretary of the Faculty: At the President asked Dr. Gary May to chair the remainder of the meeting since he had to teach a class].
Dr. May thanked Dr. Begovic, Ms. Bramblett, Ms. Hamm, and the entire committee for their outstanding presentation and the extensive effort they have put into this study.
Dr. May called on Mr. Swant (Associate VP -- Budget
and Planning) and Dr. Wepfer (V. Provost -- Distance Learning and Professional
Education) to present an update on the “Technology Square” project. Mr. Swant began by describing the various
components of the project: the
Wepfer continued the presentation focusing on the
question was asked as to who will operate the various shops at
Dr. May thanked Mr. Swant and Dr. Wepfer for their informative presentation.
Dr. May called on Dr. Hughes, Chair of the
Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, to introduce minutes from that
committee and action items therein.
Hughes indicated that there are five committee meeting minutes to be
approved [January 29, February 26, March 12, March 26, and
Dr. May called on Dr. Green, Chair of the Graduate
Curriculum Committee, to introduce minutes from that committee and action items
therein. Green indicated that there are
two committee meeting minutes to be approved [February 27 and
A question was raised as to whether we intend to seek ABET accreditation for the new MS degree in Paper Science and Engineering since we do not have an undergraduate degree in the same field. Green indicated that he does not know whether or not such accreditation will be sought. It was agreed that he will seek a response from the Dean of Engineering or the Provost’s Office regarding our intent with respect to accreditation of the MS degree in Paper Science and Engineering, and report to the faculty. With that stipulation, the motion passed without dissent. [Note added by the Secretary of the Faculty on April 25, 2003: Dr. Green reported that he had sought a clarification on the accreditation issue from Dr. Ron Rousseau (Chair, ChE), who is responsible for integration of the IPST degree programs within Georgia Tech, and that Dr. Rousseau has stated that we do not intend to seek ABET accreditation for the MS degree in Paper Science and Engineering].
10. Dr. May called for any other business; hearing none, he closed the meeting at .
Secretary of the Faculty
Attachments to be included with archival copy of the minutes: