The mean grade point average in all undergraduate courses taken in the McDonough School of Business will now be capped at 3.5 out of 4.0 in an effort to decrease competition among students.
This new grading policy will affect core and elective courses across all majors, in addition to Georgetown’s MBA program, and will take effect in the spring 2019 semester, according to a Jan. 7 email from Patricia Grant, MSB senior associate dean, announcing the update to MSB students. The former policy, which had been in place since 2009, dictated that the average GPA in any MSB core class could not exceed 3.3.
The MSB’s decision comes after a monthslong initiative to address concerns about unintended consequences of the previous grading policy, such as increased competition, reduced collaboration and adverse effects on employment and graduate school admissions compared to universities where such a policy does not exist, according to an email announcing the update to MSB students.
The MSB’s executive council, which includes the school’s faculty and senior administrators, as well as student representatives, decided upon the new policy in November 2018, according to the MSB website.
Professors are able to request an exemption to the grading policy on the basis of exceptional reasons, such as a small class size or high levels of self-selection into the class, according to the email.
Former Deputy Dean of the MSB Professor Ricardo Ernst was a strong advocate of implementing the previous curve until he saw the negative consequences the strict curve had on students’ willingness to collaborate.
“The element of competition is always healthy, but you should not push it to the limit,” Ernst said in an interview with The Hoya. “One of the beauties of Georgetown is that our students, at the end of the day, many times they become friends. Having the curve implemented too tightly destroys that very important part of the learning process, which is cooperation among classmates.”
Paul Dougherty (MSB ’20) believes students’ academic attitudes will not be affected by a change in the grading system.
“I am not so sure that it will change the level of ‘competition’ people talk about when it comes to the MSB,” Dougherty said. “The way I see it, people will continue to put in their best effort and the result of the curve will simply be a different way of measuring the same academic process and relative performance that has always occurred.”
The new policy is likely to not affect students on a day-to-day basis, since the grading curve only comes into effect at the end of the course, according to Dougherty.
“The curve only comes into effect once final grades are solidified, and thus does not affect a student’s perception of their standing in a class until it is too late to change the level of effort they are putting in,” Dougherty said.