The UC Berkeley Office of Planning and Analysis, or OPA, recently released a database that lists student GPAs by major since 2007, revealing a trend of undergraduate grade deflation across a number of humanities and STEM departments.
The database, which was released Wednesday, found that the lowest average undergraduate major GPAs of the 10 largest campus departments were integrative biology at 3.24, computer science in the College of Letters and Science at 3.27 and sociology at 3.28. This data was taken from 2015 to 2016, the most recent year from which data was compiled.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, or EVCP, Paul Alivisatos said in a CALmessage that the compiled data is the result of a yearlong partnership among the EVCP office, ASUC student leaders and the vice chancellor of finance’s OPA.
OPA’s Our Berkeley database, which launched in October 2017, provides quantitative snapshots of campus demographics, student experience and class instruction. The Our Berkeley website comprises an initiative sponsored by Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Rosemarie Rae to increase transparency and accountability. Until now, the site lacked an information dashboard related to GPA data.
“We were glad we were able to produce this immediately and that it’s going to be up indefinitely,” said ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Iyan Bullitt.
He added that 2016-17 GPA averages will be made available within the next month and that GPA data will continue to be added to the site annually.
Efforts to make good on the database proposal began with meetings in January to learn more about departmental grading policies. According to Bullitt, he and the ASUC worked with the office of the EVCP and also lobbied the Office of the Registrar, Student Information Systems and OPA to negotiate the logistics and financial costs for producing the GPA data set website.
Bullitt said he and the ASUC presented raw GPA data from Cal Answers, an online database, to administrators, faculty and staff, hoping to demonstrate the necessity of creating an information resource from it.
“They were surprised so many GPAs were below a 3.5 and were surprised that both humanities and STEM were low,” Bullitt said.
Bullitt attributed low GPAs to student performance, departmental policies or a combination of both, depending on the department. He added that he hopes the data will encourage departments to address grade deflation by improving grading practices or addressing demanding major requirements.
The data sheds light on UC Berkeley’s “rigorous” standards and deflated grades otherwise unknown to some future employers and graduate programs, according to Bullitt. The resource also provides quantitative information that can be attached to a resume or application to contextualize GPAs.
Other dashboards added to the Our Berkeley site include student headcount by major, data on undergraduate STEM students and nonacademic campus staff headcount, according to the office of the EVCP in an email.
Bullitt said the ASUC still plans to propose adding contextual GPA information directly on official transcripts to the Academic Senate.
“Students who kind of think they’re the only ones who might be getting a certain grade will be relieved to know they aren’t,” Bullitt said. “I think it just destigmatizes academic performance.”