UW seeks ‘equity’ in grades, majors

Blacks and Latinos should achieve “equity” in grades and high-demand majors at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, according to the Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence passed by the Faculty Senate. No one challenged the plan or debated the consequences, charges W. Lee Hansen, an emeritus economics professor, in Madness in Madison.

The framework is vague, a “thicket of cliches,” writes Hansen. However, an Ad Hoc Diversity Planning Committee has formulated goals and recommendations based on “Inclusive Excellence” framework  adopted earlier by the Board of Regents.

The  “representational equity” section calls for “proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades.”

What does that mean?

 Suppose there were a surge of interest in a high demand field such as computer science. Under the “equity” policy, it seems that some of those who want to study this field would be told that they’ll have to choose another major because computer science already has “enough” students from their “difference” group.

Especially shocking is the language about “equity” in the distribution of grades. Professors, instead of just awarding the grade that each student earns, would apparently have to adjust them so that academically weaker, “historically underrepresented racial/ethnic” students perform at the same level and receive the same grades as academically stronger students.

At the very least, this means even greater expenditures on special tutoring for weaker targeted minority students. It is also likely to trigger a new outbreak of grade inflation, as professors find out that they can avoid trouble over “inequitable” grade distributions by giving every student a high grade.

I’m sure “equity” in grades and majors is a goal, not a mandate. UW professors wouldn’t turn Asian-American males away from computer science majors and tell them to try sociology, Spanish or African-American Studies instead. They wouldn’t set different grading standards by race and ethnicity or give everyone A’s to erase an achievement gap.


If UW wants to help underprepared students succeed in demanding majors, there are real things the university could do. Work with high schools and community colleges to improve readiness. Rethink counseling and tutoring. Set up summer jobs in STEM fields.

Helping minority students earn good grades is a worthy goal, writes Ann Althouse, also a UW professor. “We want all our students to do well.” 

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  1. This is a terrible idea all around. Imagine if the prof just gave everyone the average of the class grades: there would be no reason to study, since your individual effort couldn’t budge the average much. You would be down to communism: “we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”

    • Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

      This is a GREAT idea!!!!

      The class as a whole must earn the class’s grade! I LOVE IT.

      Four years of this, and there’s not going to be a serious college student in the world who isn’t a Republican.

  2. Mark Armistread says:

    Its kinda scary when you look at how Yahoo,Google, and some other tech companies all recently had articles written about them and how much “Diversity” they didn’t have.

  3. Is it really that much different than what they do now?

  4. I suppose the degrees UW hands out won’t indicate which students got the affirmative action bumps and which didn’t.

    I’m sure that won’t have any effect of the value of the degree.

    Oh, and the real, honest policy UW could embrace would be to not accept unprepared students if it’s a fast-paced, highly competitive school. Unprepared students that are accepted into that environment aren’t getting accepted because it’s in the best interest of the student but because it’s in the interest of the school.

  5. Mark Roulo says:

    Ann Althouse has a post on this. Interesting bits include this:

    That document — PDF — has a page that defines various terms, including “representational equity,” which means: “Proportional participation of historically underrepresented racial-ethnic groups at all levels of an institution, including high status special programs, high-demand majors, and in the distribution of grades.”
    It’s interesting to know that term and what it means, especially if and when that term is used, but it’s not used — not once — in the “Framework for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence,” the document the faculty senate voted on.


  6. What idiot came up with this idea? High Demand majors (i.e. – high wage ones) are usually in STEM fields, which typically don’t have a LOT of hispanic or black enrollment.

    Having worked in this area for almost 32 years (STEM, IT specifically), it’s not a stretch to see why they’re trying to diversify, but perhaps Ben Rich (former CEO of skunk works) said it best to a reporter one day in Burbank:

    Reporter: Why don’t you employ more Latino Engineers, Mr. Rich?

    Ben Rich: Because they didn’t go to engineering school?…


  7. This reminds me of an incident in my life long ago when I was a TA in Grad School. I was a TA for an Honors Analysis Course. I attended the lectures given by the professor and taught two problem solving sessions a week for the class on my own. I graded all the homework and exams including the final. I also had hours when students wanting assistance could drop by and I would try to help with any topics they were having trouble understanding.

    Once when I was at my desk grading, I not sure if it was the second or third exam of the semester, a black student suddenly walked in and started talking to me about making up the exam. I was a little confused because I had never him seen before and the class was not very large, 30 or so students, none black as far as any I had seen in class or at my problem solving sessions. At first I thought he must be enrolled in another class but he confirmed that he was in the class I was a TA for. After a while it was clear that he was talking about making up, not the current exam, but the first exam of the semester which had been given many weeks before. I told him that he needed to talk to the professor about making up the exam whereupon he left and I never saw him again.

    After the final the professor had a meeting with me in his office to determine the final grades to be awarded for the course. He had a form in front of him which listed beside the name or each student the scores they had gotten on the exams including the final all of which I had graded. The name of the black student was listed but no scores were written on the line containing his name.

    The professor asked me about how the various students had done on the assigned homework and about their participation in the problem solving session. After I went over the work of the different students the professor assigned letter grades to the students. He gave A’s, B’s and C’s to everybody based on their numerical scores and my input. At the end everybody had been assigned a grade except the black student. The professor hesitated awhile and then wrote down his grade – a D.

    This student attended none of the lectures, none of the problem solving sessions, turned in no homework assignments, took none of the exams including the final and yet was passed because he was black.

    • I would have flunked his caboose, but having been an adjunct at a local community college, it’s probably a safe bet he didn’t finish out the current year, and probably dropped out of college as he probably figured out he couldn’t slip and slide and get good grades like he did in middle/high school.