Haas undergraduate grades no longer required to be curved

Brenna Alexander/File

Undergraduate students may no longer face curved classes in the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, giving professors more flexibility in how they grade their classes.

The school announced to students last week an amendment to its grading policy that abolishes the requirement for curving grades for all undergraduate business classes but maintains maximums of 3.2 and 3.4 mean GPAs for core classes and electives, respectively.

The new policy removes the previous guideline that strictly defines the percentage of each letter grade given per class.

Todd Fitch, a lecturer in the school, said that the new policy will allow professors to reward hardworking students, but with the new requirements regarding the mean GPA, every A grade must be offset with a C or a number of Bs to accomplish the mean.

According to Thomas Marschak, a professor in the school, the policy could also result in grade compression, so instead of awarding more As and Cs, professors may give more grades within the B spectrum in order to remain below the specified GPA.

Marschak said the change could lead to professors administering more written tests versus multiple choice exams to distinguish students.

“If you take this policy seriously, you will be forced to re-examine how you administer exams,” he said. “Multiple choice exams may not work anymore. It would have to be questions that demand thinking and show the grader the steps you’ve gone through.”

According to Erika Walker, executive director of the school’s undergraduate program, removing the grading curve requirement allows students to experience a standardized level of grading from professors.

She added that the policy should also encourage nonbusiness majors to take classes at the undergraduate business program without having to worry as much about competing with business majors.

However, Walker said that while complaints from faculty and staff have brought this change to the undergraduate program, faculty, staff and students in the master’s program are in favor of keeping the grading curve.

Tala Beigi, a senior in the school and president of the Haas Business School Association, said in an email that abolishing the grading curve has lightened the mood of the undergraduate business program.

“It is interesting how much of a change in the atmosphere this new grading policy has made among the students,” Beigi said in the email. “Before, you would walk into the Undergraduate Lounge in Haas and hear undergraduates talking about how much added stress the curve has imposed among them … I think this curve has definitely given everyone a chance to breath (sic).”