UC to Release Grading Records to Web Site

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A Web site designed to help students select professors and courses will obtain historical grade distributions from all UC campuses as early as tomorrow, after UC reversed its initial decision to withhold the information.

Pick-A-Prof will receive the percentages of students receiving each letter grade in every class on campus sometime over the next week, information that company officials said will aid students in gauging how hard courses really are.

"The grading information is like consumer reports for students," said the Web site's university relations director Karen Bragg.

The company first requested the distributions over the summer, arguing the records fall under provisions of the California Public Records Act, said UC Davis Information Practices Coordinator Lynette Temple.

After UC refused to release the information, Pick-a-Prof filed a lawsuit over the summer.

UC officials then conducted a legal review and agreed to release the statistics yesterday.

Officials initially refused to hand over the data because they were not sure if the public interest would be served by the documents' release, said UC Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor Charles Upshaw.

"I don't think it was clear to the campus that this fell under the Public Records Act and so there needed to be some review of it from a legal view," Upshaw said.

Their reluctance also stemmed from faculty concerns that the new information would lead students to choose classes based on ease of grading rather than subject material, Temple said.

At UC Berkeley, reaction among professors was mixed.

Nancy Amy, a professor in the nutritional science department, said she was not worried about the Web site affecting her class attendance.

"We're much more interested in teaching the students who are truly interested in the material," she said.

However, most students said they looked forward to knowing past grade history for classes.

"The Web site would be useful to get an idea of what you're getting into," sophomore Michelle Yeh said.

But others said subject matter is more important than difficulty when formulating a class schedule.

"I do better in courses where I'm more interested in the material anyway," said senior Justine Shorr, a molecular and cell biology major.

To address concerns over effects on enrollment, UC officials conducted studies about other universities whose grading distributions are posted on the site.

"The general consensus was that faculty wasn't thrilled with it, but they hadn't seen enrollments drop greatly in any classes," Temple said.

Pick-A-Prof, which started six years ago at Texas A&M University, is currently available at 170 schools across the U.S.-all of which have grading distributions posted.

In 2001, the site first requested grading distributions from UC Davis, which released the information. But when the company sought the same information from other UC campuses, UC officials made a decision to withhold it.

Upshaw said UC officials are not seriously concerned about its schools being disadvantaged relative to private institutions whose records do not have to be released.

"I think what Pick-a-Prof wants to do is allow this information to students to allow them to make 'informed choices,'" Upshaw said. "I don't see it going beyond that."

Other Campuses on PickaProf.com

Cornell University

Florida State University

George Mason University

Kansas State University

Michigan State University

New York University

Oregon State University

University of Massachusetts at Amherst

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Washington State University

San Diego State University

A total of 170 universities are

currently on the Web site.


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