General Contact Information
Office of the Provost & Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
One Bernard Baruch Way
New York, NY 10010-5585
135 East 22nd Street, 7th Floor
Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
This email is being sent to all members of the Baruch College faculty.
For an archive of announcements sent from the Associate Provost beginning June 2011, click here.
From: Dennis Slavin, on behalf of the provost’s taskforce on the WU grade
As some of you know, changes in Baruch’s use of the WU grade have been discussed in various forums recently, including in these announcements and at the Faculty Senate. Colleagues raised additional questions and Provost Christy convened a taskforce to try to answer them. The taskforce consisted of the chairs of the college’s four undergraduate committees on academic standing (WSAS Associate Dean Gary Hentzi, ZSB Associate Dean Qing Hu, Professor Daniel Willams, SPA, and Professor Wayne Finke, WSAS, chair of the college committee), Professor Kevin Frank (chair of the Senate’s Educational Policy Committee), Ed Adams (Baruch’s senior registrar), the provost, and yours truly. We discussed the issues that had been raised, formulated specific questions, and ultimately sent them to the University Registrar, Annamarie Bianco. The answers are somewhat long and detailed; if you’d like to cut to the bottom line, feel free to skip to the end of this message. The following is what we learned:
Although CUNY’s faculty may choose not to employ all of the grades listed in CUNY’s “Grade Glossary and Guidelines” we must follow those definitions of the grades, updated most recently in a memo of August 2013. The definitions are available at:
The WU grade, which has been understood at Baruch to be a grade for excessive absences, does not mean excessive absences: it designates an “unofficial withdrawal,” meaning that a student has stopped attending class. If, for example, a student attends once a week for a class that meets twice a week (i.e., misses fully half of the class sessions), a WU is not the correct grade because the student has continued to attend.
According to Ms. Bianco: “the faculty cannot award [the WU] until the end of the term as it is possible for the student to reappear in the last days of the class.”
As has long been the case at Baruch—but was not relevant when we used to turn in WU grades during the course of the semester—WU is not the correct grade for a student who takes the final exam. This is true even if the student stopped coming to the class, but re-appeared for the final.
Although our use of the WU for excessive absences has been incorrect, this is not to say that attendance may not inform grading. We asked whether it be would acceptable under CUNY policy for a faculty member to include on his or her syllabus a statement along the following lines: “Attendance will count for 20% of the grade. However, more than five absences will result in a failing grade for the course regardless of your grades on assignments and exams.”
Ms. Bianco replied: “According to the Manual of General Policy ‘the faculty is primarily responsible for academic matters, including the criteria for admission and retention of students, promulgation of rules concerning attendance, the awarding of credit and degrees, the quality of teaching, research and the guidance of students, and the general quality and advancement of the academic program of the college. The responsibility for the academic program extends to the personnel responsible for that program and, therefore, includes the selection, retention, promotion and quality of the faculty.’” (See p. 8 of
We wondered whether any particular number (i.e., attendance worth 40% of the grade or two absences instead of five) would be unacceptable according to CUNY policy.
The response was: “According to CUNY policy it is up to the faculty to decide on attendance rules and the acceptable rubric for grading. As unreasonable as the requirements may seem, IF the course syllabus is provided to students and clearly states these rules there is no CUNY policy to prevent it. Please keep in mind that final grades may be appealed and should the appeals process determine that the earned grades on work completed outweigh the rubric evaluation of attendance, the faculty may be required to change the assigned grade.”
Ms. Bianco included this reminder: “Please keep in mind WU grades have specific impacts on Financial Aid and the return to Title IV process. In order to minimize the risk of being out of compliance with TIV regulations CUNY must apply the WU grade consistently across the university.”
Some colleagues have asked about how to square taking attendance (and using it in grading our students) with Baruch’s designation as a “non-attendance taking institution.” The answer is that the emphasis is on the word “institution”: as individual instructors we may take attendance—and must do so during the certification period (the first three weeks of the semester)—but if attendance informs our grading we must do it systematically, apply the results consistently to all students in a class, and state our policies in our syllabi. The same is true for “participation”: if it informs grading, it should be assessed consistently according to a rubric that apprises students of our expectations and appears in our syllabi.
Finally, as many of you know, at Baruch we’ve long been following a version of the following, abridged from the Faculty Handbook:
The grade "WU" is assigned for excessive absences… absences in excess of twice the number of weekly hours the class meets (i.e., if a class meets three hours a week, students who are absent more than six hours may be assigned the grade of "WU").
We can’t continue to define the WU this way (see above), but based on the foregoing references to attendance as the purview of faculty, the task force wonders whether—as a faculty—there is general feeling that this guideline should be retained (as a guideline) or should be augmented or replaced by a statement to the effect that attendance policies are up to individual faculty members, so long as they are followed consistently, applied to everyone in a class, and communicated in writing.
Members of the faculty may take attendance into account when grading, including awarding F’s to students who have overcut. However, if you do:
- Your syllabus must clearly define your policies and terms, such as overcutting.
- You must take attendance regularly, and apply your attendance/grading policies consistently to all of your students.
- You may not assign the grade of WU to a student who takes the final exam.
- WU means that a student has stopped attending a class—and not that he or she has overcut. (i.e., A student who regularly attends Monday sessions of a Monday/Wednesday class may not be given a WU. He or she may be awarded a lower grade—or even a failing grade—but only if the syllabus clearly defines the role of attendance in eliciting those penalties.)
- All students should be assigned the grade they have earned based on the grading rubric in the syllabus (which may take attendance into account).
Provost Christy plans to review this message at the next plenary meeting of the faculty senate on Thursday, April 7.
Associate Provost and Assistant Vice President
Baruch College, CUNY
646-660-6504 (phone); 646-660-6531 (fax)