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Professors strive to curb grade inflation

University students may feel the pinch as faculty members face additional pressure this year to bring the problem of grade inflation under control.

Over the past several years, the University and other schools nationwide have come under intense scrutiny as students' average grade point averages crept upwards.

Faculty Senate Chairman David T. Gies said the faculty "must face up to their responsibility" to curb grade inflation.

College Dean Melvyn P. Leffler has made it clear to faculty members that he will be reviewing grades carefully for signs of inflation and the results he sees will be "factored into promotion and tenure," Gies said.

Leffler could not be reached for comment.

History Prof. Erik Midelfort said Leffler recently has been stressing the importance of keeping grades stabilized.

"Dean Leffler has pointed out that in some cases the disparity is so great it's just not fair," Midelfort said. "With the dean paying attention, there's at least the possibility he'll look over your grades."

Those faculty members who are found to have inflated grades would "have some explaining to do...I think there's some pressure" to keep grades lower than they have been in the past, he said.

This year, faculty members definitely are well attuned to the importance of keeping grades uninflated, Classics Prof. Jon D. Mikalson said.

"Dean Leffler has made everyone aware of the situation and discouraged faculty from offering inflated grades," Mikalson said.

The University now will be holding individual faculty more accountable, he said.

Midelfort said he would not be surprised if grade inflation is considered when faculty are under consideration for promotions or for tenure.

It could add some necessary pressure, he said.

The problem of grade inflation is "something every individual instructor should take seriously," said Larry J. Sabato, government and foreign affairs professor.

"We'd have to be academic ostriches to claim it doesn't affect us here," Sabato said. But he did not believe "higher-level administrators pressure instructors to give higher or lower grades - it just doesn't happen."

Not all University students think grade inflation is rampant.

Second-year Engineering student Zach Owen does not feel grade inflation exists in Engineering classes.

"Our number grades are much lower than in any other school," Owen said.

Third-year College student Jennifer Norton said she feared the pressure on faculty to curb grade inflation would have a "detrimental effect on students' grades.".

Ending inflation "ultimately helps students," said Gies.

"If U.Va. becomes known as a school where everyone gets A's, the value of your degree" is diminished, he said.

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