GEORGIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
THE EXECUTIVE BOARD
Held in the Poole Board Room of the
Members Present: Agrawal (ChE); Boyd (Stu. Servcs); Clough (President); Henry (OSP); Horton (GTRI); Jayaraman (Mgt); Kahn (CEE); Peterson (ECE); Swank (GTRI); Telotte (LCC); Warren (EDI); Alexander (Staff Rep); Michaels (G. Stu); Massey (U. Stu); Abdel-Khalik (SoF).
Members Absent: Allen (Arch); Chameau (Provost); Evans (GTRI); Mark (CoC); Marr (Psy); Uzer (Phys.)
Visitors: Begovic (ECE); Bramblett (IRP);
1. Larry Kahn (Chair) opened the meeting at and called on the President to comment on matters of interest to the Georgia Tech community. The President offered the following comments:
a. Dr. Chameau is doing well; he left the hospital on Friday; he is in good spirits and is recovering nicely at home; prognosis for a full recovery is very good; we look forward to his return.
b. Undergraduate applications for this year are down
approximately 4% compared to last year; the drop is nearly all accounted for by
a drop in applications to ECE and the
c. Tuition will likely go up more than it would normally, because of the significant cut in our State budget; we do not know yet how much the increase will be. Our out-of-State tuition increased by $1000 during each of the past two years; however, we did not “advance” against any of our peer group because others have been raising tuition even faster due to more severe budget cuts than Georgia’s. 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; there is a growing disparity between the cost of educating a student and what the HOPE scholarship pays -- it costs approximately $14,500/year to educate a student at Georgia Tech; HOPE pays slightly over $3000 at this time. In theory, tuition should cover one-fourth of a student’s education, while the State pays the other three fourths; at this point that is not working. The Legislature understands the problem, but these are difficult times. The good news is that the quality of our student body remains very strong.
d. The Legislature has not yet completed the amended 03 budget; the delay is partly due to the recent changes in State Government. The Governor’s budget for 03 was very good, given the current state of the economy -- it included some maintenance and equipment funds which were taken out last year. The budget for 04 is a big concern; the outcome hinges on the proposed tax increases. Most of our issues are the same as those for the entire University System; most important issue is support for the formula -- if funded, that would increase our share because of our large enrollment increases (more than any other school in the University System). Our relations with the Governor’s staff and the Legislature have been very good; the doors have always been open; discussions have been informed and constructive; they understand the issues. We hear nothing but praise for Georgia Tech; credit should be given to Andrew Harris who has done a good job; we have 14 Georgia Tech students doing internships at the State Capitol (more than any other school). They are talented students, who speak louder for what we do than any one else.
e. The President reported on fund raising activities; he stated that we continue to raise funds even though we are not in a capital campaign. A status report providing actual and projected fund raising goals since the end of the last fund raising campaign was distributed. (See Attachment #1 below). For the January 01 through June 05 period, the goal is to raise an average of ~$80M/year; the expected distribution is non-uniform with a lower initial rate (immediately after the previous campaign). The average since January 01 has been slightly more than $70M/year, well ahead of expectations. The report includes data for the different uses (as specified by the donors), sources (Alumni provide nearly 50% of the funds raised), and programs. Alumni in 45 cities (both in the US and overseas) have been visited to identify potential donors who were not tapped in the previous campaign, as well as those willing to take leadership positions in the next campaign; nearly 8000 new donor prospects have been identified. We would like to increase our fund raising from Foundations (difficult because of recent endowment decreases) and Friends (where great progress can be made). The President indicated that he has also been working with student government leaders to raise money for special projects (student center expansion; $1.5M so far).
President provided an update on activities of the Telecommunications Task Force,
which he chairs upon the request of Governor Perdue. Under Governor Barnes, the decision was made
to bundle all telecommunications and computing services, including software,
hardware, distributed computing, networking, video, data, etc. into one
contract (10-years long). Bids were
sought twice; both times, only one bid was received. Governor Perdue decided not
to award a $1.8B contract based only on one bid; instead, he established the
Task Force to examine how the State should seek and contract for such services. The Task Force has met three times so far; a
very good group, with several Georgia Tech alumni. A meeting was held with all providers of such
services, all of whom agreed that it was not a good idea to bundle the services. Georgia Tech was affected by the attempt to
combine all the services into one contract; a prominent consulting firm had completed
a study of our campus; the study indicated that GT can save $2M/year by
acquiring those services in a more competitive way. We were not allowed to proceed, which means
that we effectively lost $6M over the past three years. The Task Force will
likely recommend a different approach, which will be much better and more
economical for the State of
g. On the National scene, last week Dr. Clough reported to the President’s Council of Science and Technology Advisors (PCAST) on the completed study and hearings held on the subject of Technology Transfer. Dr. Clough indicated that he was asked to chair that panel, in part because of the great work and reputation of Georgia Tech. The report was well received; it will be shortly submitted to President Bush. Jilda Garton (GTRC), and Marie Thursby (MGT) provided a great deal of help on that study.
h. In light of the recent news stories, the President commented on the subject of athletics; he stated that we do not take any joy in what our colleagues at UGA are going through. While no one is absolutely immune, our systems and procedures are quite different than those at UGA and other universities. Our Athletics Association Governing Board is composed of students, faculty, and three alumni, with the dominant majority being faculty; that is quite different than what one finds at any other University. Our athletics director attends the meetings, but he does not vote and is not a member of the Board. Our admissions are handled by a group of faculty, and Deborah Smith (Director of Admissions). We are pleased with our systems and procedures; they meet all the right tests; we did have an external audit as a part of the mid-course NCAA certification process, and were found to be in good standing. David Braine (Athletics Director) and his staff, and Bob McMath (V. Provost for Undergraduate Studies) deserve a great deal of credit; they have worked closely on academic support of students (the academic support services in Athletics now report to Bob McMath). David Braine and his staff have worked very hard to integrate their efforts with academics, and have brought in coaches who have high standards. Coach Gailey also deserves a lot of credit; this year’s class of recruits is the best group of student athletes that we ever had at Georgia Tech.
Boyd (Associate Dean of Students) commented that our review process for academic misconduct is quite different than UGA. If a Georgia Tech student is found cheating, he/she may be placed on probation, and would not be able to participate in athletics. She indicated that she has never been asked by the athletics department to change any decision that she had made, and pointed to a case where the coach of a student athlete slated to receive major recognition by NCAA told the player that he needed to accept the responsibility for his actions. A comment was made that it is important to “moderate” alumni expectations in terms of Bowl games and NCAA finals, etc. The President commented that we do not have the type of situation that would create a conflict, partly because we do not have a Physical Education Department; our challenge is to be competitive because of the difficulty of our curriculum, and its relative sparseness in terms of the number of electives and independent study opportunities. A question was asked whether the Athletic Association has come up with a method to meet the 40/60/80 NCAA rule; a follow-up comment was made that it is very difficult even for non-athletes to be 40% of the way through by the end of the sophomore year. The President indicated that this rule presents a challenge, and that, unfortunately, the NCAA reform movement will have some unintended consequences; it may make it difficult for a person who wants to be an engineer or a scientist to play any sports, since the curriculum may have 130 semester hours (versus 120), without any “independent study” opportunities. He indicated that the outcome may be affected by whether they will allow the Summer session prior to the normal fall term entrance to be included; this is now allowed for Basketball players because of their low graduation rate. In the past, Georgia Tech had a summer program for all students who needed some remedial courses; the program was dropped when we switched to the Semester system. That is the type of thing we need to reconsider; we can not do something just for athletes, but we can certainly do it for a large number of students, and some athletes can take part in the program.
A question was asked as to how the Georgia Tech endowment has been affected by the Stock Market declines. The President indicated that we have seen a decline of about 6% this year (much less than many others). This is partly due to diversification, and due to the assistance of a group of our alumni who are investment professionals. We maintain a diversified portfolio, with an investment strategist in each area. Our strategists recommended that we place a “collar” on each stock, with an upper and lower limit; these were put in place at the right time; we saved about $100M because of that strategy which impacted many technology stocks, as well as Coca Cola. Another thing that helped us a great deal is that some of our alumni helped us invest in venture funds; these continued to make money even after the market went down. Our investment people are looking at it all the time to adjust our portfolio. So, we have been fortunate; nevertheless, we have seen a drop, which means we will have less scholarship funds than we had in the past; it also impacts discretionary funds, as well as income for endowed chairs; but fortunately, it is not significantly down. There were no other questions for the President.
The Chair called for approval of minutes of the
3. The Chair 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 #3 below). Ms. Bramblett began 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, 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 statistical analyses which can be conducted. A survey of peer institutions, as well as other institutions who 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.
A list of Georgia Tech’s peer institutions (approved by the Board of
Regents several years ago) was presented; it includes seven private and 13
public institutions. In addition to the
peer institutions, data from five other institutions were reviewed: University of
Ms. Bramblett indicated that most of the peer institutions use a 4.0 grading scale; Cal Tech and MIT use a Pass/Fail system in the freshman year; fourteen peer institutions use some form of a +/- grading system. 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.
A question was asked as to whether we ever look at Emory’s data; Ms. Bramblett indicated that we do not. A follow-up comment was made that when one looks at grades, Emory is similar to Harvard.
Begovic continued the presentation focusing primarily on the Georgia Tech data. He showed the distribution of different grades (A through F) awarded during the 1992-2001 period. A table comparing the 2000 Freshman students’ anticipated grades against their actual cumulative GPA at the end of the first year was shown. Only one third of those who expected a grade in the 3.5 to 4.0 range actually achieve that goal; more than 50% of the students with anticipated grades of 2.5 and above failed to meet those expectations. 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. He pointed out that the percentage of female students during that time has increased by 12.8%, which is one of the factors that contribute to better overall performance. 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 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.
Begovic presented data for the effect of the instructor’s tenure status on the grades; the data suggests that a large percentage of the highest grades are assigned by non-tenured and non- tenure-track instructors. For example, in 2000, non-tenured and non-tenure-track instructors assigned 22% of the lower division grades; the assigned average GPA was 3.25, versus 2.75 for tenured faculty. Percentages of different grades (A through F) assigned during three different years (between 1992 and 2002) were presented; data for all undergraduate classes, as well as for 1000-level and 4000-level courses only, 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 distributions 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.
Average grades assigned by the different departments during the Fall 1993 and Fall 2002 were presented. Data for all undergraduate courses, as well as for 1000-level and 4000-level courses only, were separately 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 3.5. Of the 31 units examined, 20 reported higher assigned grades for 2002 than 1993. Wider variations among departments are observed in assigned grades for 1000-level courses than those for 4000-level courses, where the average grades are generally higher. Smaller differences between the assigned average grades for 1993 and 2002 were observed for 4000-level courses than for the 1000-level courses.
Begovic discussed possible causes and implications of the observed trends. On one hand, students may be taking a lighter load because of availability of summer courses, and instructors may be using more effective teaching tools; on the other hand, some instructors may be “spoon feeding” the students or there may be a “bidding war” between institutions. Possible implications for the students, schools, and future employers were discussed. 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, the perceived grade inflation may lead to a drop in teaching effort by the instructors. Also, the disparity in grades among units may impact assignment of scholarships, while the perceived correlation between grades and student course/instructor evaluations may have negative implications on the instructors. Grade inflation may also impact employers; they may look for alternate evaluation tools of job candidates, including personal recommendations, standardized test results, and closer examination of the courses taken by the students.
Begovic presented an outline of the report to be prepared by the committee, which is expected to be nearly 75 pages in length. 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, 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 implications and remedies will then be provided; among the remedies discussed are the pass/fail approach used by Cal Tech and MIT for the freshman year, increasing resolution of grading by including the +/- grades adopted by many of our peer institutions, changing the passing threshold as was done by MIT, inclusion of mid-term grades, including detailed descriptive grades given by the instructor which are not entered into the transcript, curtailment of honor programs, providing institutional feedback about grading to the instructors, and “training” teaching assistants and non-tenured faculty on the meaning of grades and the grading policies of the institution.
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 at the lower level courses, 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 part of the historical lore of Georgia Tech during the past 30 years was that we used to flunk a large fraction of students early in the program. If this were true, the percentage of F’s we give today must be significantly lower than what it was 30 years ago. A follow-up question was asked as to how the process used to normalize for student achievement account for that difference in philosophy? Begovic responded by indicating that the data examined by the committee does not support that statement. A follow-up comment was made that today we have about 91% freshman retention rate; it would seem that if we were giving out a lot more F’s than we are giving today, such a change would account for a significant fraction of the trend in GPA that we have seen over the past thirty years. Begovic indicated that retention is not only related to the number of F’s, but also to the disparity between the students’ grade expectations and their actual achieved grades, which may have contributed to their leaving the institution. Nearly two thirds of those who expected grades above 3.5 did not achieve that goal, and more than half of those who expected grades between 2.5 and 3.0 did not achieve those goals. The level of dissatisfaction among students because of lower grades is high; we do not know how many of them leave the institution because of that.
A comment was made that in looking at the definition of grade inflation presented earlier, the first part of the definition, namely the increase in GPA, can be easily seen from the data. However, the second part, namely, lack of commensurate increase in achievement, has not been demonstrated. A question was asked as to how to define and measure achievement, and what evidence do we have that achievement has not increased along with grades. Begovic indicated that as far as achievement goes, we have very little to go by other than the grades themselves. The committee concentrated more on looking at the quality of “input” and the relationship between input and output. He stated that we should trust the instructors; and that we must preserve that integrity. Demonstrating that achievement has increased is very difficult to objectively prove. A follow-up comment was made that while it may be difficult to measure achievement, there are other indices that need to be looked at to determine whether or not achievement has increased.
A comment was made that most graduate schools require a minimum GPA of 3.0; given the traditionally low grades at Georgia Tech, there must have been internal pressures within the Institute to increase the grades so that capable students can go to graduate school; the commenter indicated that there may be no direct evidence/data to support that hypothesis. Another comment was made that many programs have been instituted at Georgia Tech to help retain students at the lower levels; these programs have helped students make the transition from high school to Georgia Tech; they provide the infrastructure support they were used to receive in high school, which was previously lacking at Georgia Tech. These programs have helped increase the students’ GPA, as well as their satisfaction; one needs to account for these factors when looking at the GPA data. An additional comment was made that the report should, perhaps, include a timeline for when different programs (e.g. OMED, WIN, etc.) were put in place. It may also be a good idea to graph the data against other indicators, e.g. number of outside scholarships received by our students, retention rate, percentage of students admitted to graduate schools, etc., which may help explain the trends, and answer the second part of the grade inflation definition. Begovic indicated that if one were to do a “micro-detail” study, it would obviously be more useful; however, it would require a major effort; the Executive Board needs to decide as to whether we want to do that.
A comment was made that from the students’ perspective, the increase in grades is an indication of an increase in students’ achievement; students are more prepared when they go to college; while the same concepts are being taught, students have more tools to use, e.g. enhanced computing capabilities, software tools, internet access, etc. There is an increase in students’ performance and expectations. Students have to perform to get into graduate schools; also, some companies will not interview a student unless his/her GPA is above a certain value. So, students have had to raise the bar, whereas before it was good enough to just graduate from Georgia Tech.
A comment was made that the data presented is, in itself, extremely valuable, especially with respect to the differences between units; there may be a need for educating the faculty as to the meaning of the different grades. A follow-up comment was made that one should be careful in comparing the data for different units, since the differences may be related to the quality of the students enrolled in the units, and the units’ performance expectations.
A suggestion was made that it would be valuable if the report were to include specific recommendations as to what we should be doing, e.g. conducting further studies to explore specific issues, or educating faculty on the meaning of different grades to get better uniformity across the units, etc. Begovic responded by stating that the committee has not made specific recommendations; instead, it will offer a “portfolio” of actions that could be considered in combating grade inflation.
A comment was made that about 15 years ago, a study was conducted by the
Board of Regents to look at students who transferred within the University
System of Georgia; the study showed that when students transferred out of
Georgia Tech, their GPA went up by nearly one point. The same difference was observed in the
reverse scenario: when people transferred to Georgia Tech from other schools,
their grades went down. This study
provides a calibration scale for how Georgia Tech grades compare to other
schools in the University system of
A question was asked as to whether data exists on how the grades given by an individual faculty member, who may have taught the class for a long period of time, have changed over the years; it would be very interesting to see the trends in such data. A comment was made that the analysis is done in a manner that looks at Georgia Tech as a closed box. It seems that both the inputs and outputs have changed over the years. We can document the changes in the input through changes in SAT and GPA; on the output side, we need to look at how employers look at the GPA of our graduates. Bramblett indicated that she spends a great deal of time with Career Services providing them with grade distribution data to give to prospective employers; by letting them know the average GPA in the discipline they are seeking, they would recognize that they may not be able to find many Georgia Tech graduates with a GPA above a cut-off point which they may have originally set. She indicated that several other institutions put the grade distribution on the transcript, so that potential employers would know the fraction of people who got A, B, etc. in each course on the transcript. She indicated that she frequently helps students write letters to Graduate Schools to indicate how tough Georgia Tech is and what the GPA really means.
Begovic indicated that the report will have a great deal of data and that
the Executive Board needs to decide whether that data should be published;
additionally, the Board needs to decide what additional work needs to be done. The Chair indicated that the Board will take
that under advisement. He 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;
Board members applauded in appreciation of the committee’s efforts. The Chair
indicated that the Committee will present its report to the Academic Faculty at
the upcoming Spring meeting to be held on
4. The Chair indicated that discussions have been initiated with the Chairs of the Undergraduate Curriculum and Graduate Curriculum Committees, and others to explore how the Standing faculty committees can perform the “content review” function of the Ad Hoc Institute Review Committee (IRC) for Assessment of Academic Programs, chaired by Dr. Joseph Hoey. The Chair indicated that these discussions are still in progress, and that a report on this matter will be offered at the next Executive Board meeting.
The Chair presented the proposed agenda for the
Annual meeting of the Academic Faculty and Academic Senate to be held on
6. The Chair called for any other business; hearing none, he closed the meeting at .
Secretary of the Faculty
Attachments (to be included with the archival copy of the minutes)