Campus News

Years in the making, UH opens grade exclusion application

Freshman | File Photo/The Cougar

This past year’s freshmen can take advantage of the new grade exclusion policy, which was advocated for years by students. | File Photo/The Cougar

UH on May 15 opened the application process for the new grade exclusion policy adopted last fall, which allows students going forward to replace bad grades once they’ve retaken a class.

The opening of the grade exclusion application signals the end of years of advocacy by students for the chance to eliminate past coursework hurting GPAs.

Freshmen who entered the University last fall are the sole group right now that can take advantage of the policy. Those who entered the University before then will not be able to.

“This policy is one of many resources offered by UH to address student academic concerns,” said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Paula Myrick Short. “The University values student success and continues to develop programs and initiatives that promote student success and are beneficial for both students and faculty,”

A student may exclude a grade from their GPA if they received the grade from their first 12 months at UH and if they retook the course within 12 months of earning the initial grade, according to the policy.

The grade can’t be higher than a D+, must be 3000-level or below, and the exclusion does not change past decisions regarding financial aid, scholarships, or sanctions as a result of the initial grade.

From bill to policy

Students from years past had advocated for the policy, and SGA made multiple attempts to have the University create one. The most recent attempt started with Clint Kirchhoff, former SGA senator and proponent of a strong grade replacement policy at UH.

“I served in SGA for 3 years and the single question raised most often by my fellow engineering students, my constituents, was some variant of this: ‘What can we do to make our grade policies fairer?’ ” Kirchhoff said.

Kirchhoff became an SGA senator in 2013 and pressed for the policy until he graduated in 2016, due to seeing many of his peers struggle in coursework.

“My very last meeting with the Faculty Senate was about 2 weeks before (I graduated),”Kirchhoff said. “That meeting was my last pitch to them, and in the fall, they voted in favor of the proposal.”

The bill, Kirchhoff  said, did not directly influence policy right away but needed to be worked through with administrators and other bodies on campus.

Kirchhoff pointed to fellow former senators David Gravtol and Paul O’Brien as instrumental in passing and refining the policy as acceptable to professors and administration.

O’Brien,  former senator, said that Kirchhoff was respected by many in the Faculty Senate, the next barrier to the bill.

“When you’re talking SGA, the average senator is somewhere between the age of 19-21, and you’re trying to tell a bunch of Ph.D.s how the University should be run,” O’Brien said. “Convincing them to do anything was a very difficult task, but Kirchhoff was well-liked by a lot of the professors.”

Their three-man team worked to slowly sway the opinions of the Faculty Senate, turning the likes of Simon Bott, former UH chemistry professor, in their favor by framing the bill as a way for freshmen to correct mistakes due to immaturity, O’Brien said.

One of the changes to the bill that O’Brien initially disagreed with but ultimately saw as reasonable was the lack of retroactive grade replacement, meaning that students enrolled at UH from before the policy’s enactment would not be able to use the policy.

“You don’t want to think there will be students that abuse the system, and I didn’t when I fought for the bill, but there would be,” O’Brien said, citing fears from advising that students would simply re-declare their majors to be counted as a freshman all over again to take advantage of the policy.

The bill eventually passed, O’Brien, Gravtol, and Kirchhoff all moved on from SGA, and now UH has adopted the policy.

“With much consideration given to the specifics of the policy and how it would be implemented, the policy went through several iterations to make sure it would best support the success of our students,” Short said regarding the bill’s development.

SGA President Allison Lawrence said a long wait time for SGA bills becoming reality is not unusual.

“There’s a very bureaucratic process for initiatives to go through,” Lawrence said. “They have to get approved by multiple departments, and it can take years sometimes.”

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story spelled Clint Kirchhoff’s name as Kirchoff. 

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