To D or not to D

JONATHAN PAUL|

ST. CROIX – While some students are shooting for the stars academically at the University of the Virgin Islands, some are okay with their feet barely off the ground.

Whether or not a “D” should be a passing grade continues to be a contentious subject matter in the university community.

Valerie Combie, associate professor of English at UVI, simply put it like this. A student receiving a C is average, and a student receiving a D is below average. She does not believe in a students receiving a D and questioned why someone would settle for that grade.post_full_1281471286D-grade

“I think students should excel in all areas; a D shows incompetence and does not reflect discipline,” Combie said.

Nancy Morgan, education professor at UVI, explained that if students cannot master a simple assessment like a presentation or the requirements of a portfolio, it is an indication of below-average performance. She agreed with Combie that this type of work that merits a D “does not display high standards.”

“I think it would be better if [he or she] got an incomplete,” she said.

Melissa Richardson, nursing major, said she found it ironic that the main purpose of high school, where a passing grade is a C, was to prepare students for college.

Since a C is the letter grade students aimed for in high school, Richardson reasons that colleges should step it up a notch by making B the new standard in higher education institutions.

Dante Lubrin, an undecided major, reasons differently. He said since college is expensive and classes may be intense, a D should be one of the perks for college students.

“I doubt any student wants a D in a class,” Lubrin said, “but when the course load gets a little hard throughout the semester and you tried your best in a class, a D feels like an A to any student.”

He said getting a D in his science 100 class was one of the greatest feelings; he said the course was difficult and juggling five other courses made it difficult to get an A.

For some majors at UVI, students are allowed to pass some classes with a D, but these students must earn at least a C- in courses relating to their majors.

Combie said this is not a double standard because a nursing student who may choose to take an art class as an elective but pass the course with the minimum D, should not be judged on his or her capability to perform the task of a nurse.

Morgan narrowed what she thinks are the appropriate measurements to the following questions:

“If you are a business major, can you do my taxes; can an educator be below average?

But, within the current framework, what’s really the fate of a student who passes a few courses with Ds?

According to Francisca Barry, associate registrar, any graduating student at UVI must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of a 2.0—“C”—for all of the classes taken at UVI in order to graduate. Not even a 1.99 GPA is acceptable.

So in reality, it’s not possible to get a D in every class and expect to graduate from UVI. Students must take additional classes in order to raise their GPA’s.

Would raising the standards hurt though?

Director of Applicant Services for University Undergraduate Admissions at Rutgers University Phyllis Micketti said a D is a passing grade in most universities and colleges because by lowering the standards, more students will actually graduate from college. However, she also said if the passing grade was a C, while it might lower the graduation rate at first, over the years, the passing grade of a C would become the norm.

In 2011, Montclair University in New Jersey had an enrollment of over 3, 400, and more than a third of the students failed a class with a grade of 60 to 69 percent in the first and second semesters. This prompted the Mount Olive School board in New Jersey to raise the standards so passing with a D could no longer be possible. The policy will be in effect September 2014.

What if we raised the standards at UVI? It’s possible it might hurt our graduation rates in the beginning, but effective change rarely becomes apparent in the short-term. In the long run, higher standards could mean greater accomplishments for those seeking a higher education.

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