by Brianna Condilenios, Peak Associate
Students aren’t strangers to that sharp pang of disappointment when they receive a low grade on an assignment. This pain cuts even deeper when they know they deserve a better grade. I’m talking about the assignments and exams that students prepare for weeks in advance and have, by all reasonable accounts, met the criteria that was originally set forward. Putting such careful effort into stellar work and being met with a mediocre grade is extremely disheartening.
Universities have this shallow desire for prestige that they try to uphold by being ridiculously selective — and SFU isn’t exempt from this. Part of this comes from how several departments will set a limit on how many students can receive a certain grade. Business and economics students are familiar with this as the grading bell curve looms large over their studies. A student can ace all assignments, but end up with a B because there are only so many As allowed for that class. And in the social sciences, sometimes professors are just not willing to give a student full marks. Whatever the reason for this restriction, it is unjust to deprive students of the grades they have rightfully earned as it is discouraging and can destabilize their educational funding.
Students come to school to learn new skills and knowledge to prepare them for employment and life. Assignments, exams, and other means of testing are designed to test such skills and knowledge. However, if the outcome of these assessments do not properly measure students’ abilities, the metric of study can seem pointless. For example, if the grade a student receives on an assignment does not accurately reflect their skills and knowledge, the purpose of the assignment becomes futile. No matter how much they study, whatever they learn will not be properly reflected in their grade. Given the frustration of this vicious cycle, a student may even ask themselves why they should bother studying.
This is clearly discouraging as the student’s time and effort are not being appreciated. Not to mention it can be a huge blow to their self-esteem and how they perceive their abilities as a student. Even if it is just one or two professors that a student experiences this with, a disparaging precedent is set for them.
Professors and departments who set arbitrary amounts on grades also do not realize that many students must maintain a certain GPA to get funding for their education. Students need a minimum of a 3.50 CGPA for most undergraduate scholarships. Since not all students are able to afford SFU’s soaring tuition prices, some rely on scholarship money to fund their studies. In some circumstances, the difference between an A or a B can have detrimental effects on the student’s overall grade in the course, and furthermore their CGPA. Not only can depriving students of their true grades be a blow to their self-worth, it can actually jeopardize the continuance of their education.
SFU’s departments and professors should re-evaluate the potential harm they could be causing to students by artificially controlling grade distribution. Instead, they should honour the integrity of the grading criteria that was originally set out. This would not only give students their rightful rewards, but would motivate students to show their true potential as writers, readers, artists, presenters, and debaters without a cloud of defeat looming over their head.