Whitman’s Unique Grading System
By Lindsey Fine
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Sophomore accounting major Daniel Prucha sat in his business classes knowing the amount of effort or understanding he has of the course material will not affect his final class grade as significantly as it did in his high school or in his classes taken at a Syracuse University college other than the Whitman School of Management.
“If I have a B-plus and I know that if I work to get an A-minus there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t get it because most of the class already has As, so then it doesn’t inspire me to work any harder because I know I’m not going to get that A-minus anyways,” Prucha said.
This unique system of grading is known colloquially as the “Whitman curve.” Whitman has a school-wide rule where in any undergraduate course with more than 15 students no more than 33% of the class can receive an A or A-minus for the semester and the average GPA across all students cannot exceed a 3.3.
This policy was implemented to encourage professors to increase the level of rigor in their classes and also standardize grades among all classes, sections and professors in the college according to marketing professor Scott Fay. Fay also said other top business schools across the country use this policy, so Whitman using it will help the school’s ranking and reputation in the business world.
“We should make it clear to our students that this grading policy is not meant to instill competition, it’s really meant to bring us all up and to insert more rigor into our courses,” Fay said.
Even though this policy was not intended to increase the feeling of competition between students, Prucha said he feels like it is harder to work with others because he knows if they all do well his grades might not be as high.
“I really don’t like it, because I think it doesn’t inspire cohesiveness,” Prucha said. “It definitely makes it more competitive; I don’t work with nearly as many people as I would in a different major.”
Junior accounting and marketing student Amanda Spindler said she has not experienced an increase in competitiveness, but instead feels as though this system prepares students for the very competitive business world and encourages her to work harder to make sure she succeeds.
“In the business world you’re competing for a job, you’re competing to get promoted, get hired, so starting here is helping students get prepared for what they are going to see in the business workplace,” Spindler said.