Center For International Students: Grade Average Prejudice!

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Written by Brent Downey

I spent a fair amount of time browsing the university's website to see if I could get a grasp on something new I could try. I came across the website for the Center for International Programs (CIP) and said to myself, "Hey since I've been in Guelph my whole life, why not give a shot at international post-secondary education". The website did an amazing job of selling the idea to me and made it sound like it was all very possible. I had high hopes (apparently too high) that I would actually be able to do an exchange program. After crunching some numbers and speaking with others who had done exchange programs, it seemed like this was what I wanted to do in my 3rd or 4th year of my undergrad degree. I must’ve clicked on every link on the CIP website before I stumbled across the FAQ’s section and my heart broke into at least 1000 tiny little pieces (good thing for modern technological advancements - it was repaired quickly). One of the questions posted near the end of the list was “how high does my average have to be when I apply?” The response from CIP was that a cumulative average of 70% is required to be accepted for exchange program, unless there are some sort of extenuating circumstances such as illness that would result in a lower cumulative grade average. It is stated that since the exchanges are competitive academic programs, this grade average is necessary. Seriously, they could’ve have put this on the front page so I didn’t waste my time.

We all know there is a massive change between the high school style of learning and the University style of learning and this is found out after day one of semester one. It is expected that grade averages will drop significantly during your first few semesters. So here I am now in my 4th semester with a respectable 60-something average in a program that is anything but easy. I have a big problem with the fact that I am unable to use a school resource which I have paid for with tuition fees because of a grade average. I would love to hear what the CIP feels this grade average represents. If the exchange process was truly an academic process, I would hope they would find a better system of rating a student’s ability to learn and succeed in a post-secondary situation. This is Canada, a country where everybody should be treated equally and should be free from prejudice. The judgment that is being made is that since I do not have a cumulative 70% average, I am not “smart enough” to travel to another country to study. They couldn’t be more wrong. Once again we see an example of an institution clearly not following the ideologies that our great country was founded on. If a judgment this strong is to be made about myself, I would expect that the person(s) making the judgment would know a little more about me than my student number and the marks I received in introductory courses. Like all students striving to achieve a higher education, I take pride in the work I do and wish not to be deemed ineligible to learn successfully by the institution that I chose to be the best place to pursue my post secondary education. I ask for change in the Center for International Programs screening practices to exclude the act of prejudging students on the basis of their grade average. More formal and intellectual methods should be exercised (interviewing for example) to gain a true and balanced view on the people who apply.

Note from The Cannon Operating Committee: We believe the Cannon should not shy away from controversial issues, and therefore we permit opinion pieces that may be controversial in nature. We would like to remind readers that thecannon.ca does not take any editorial positions. The opinions posted on the Cannon reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces even if they are controversial in nature.

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  1. Posted by: miss terious on Feb 14, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    look at it this way, if u had a 90-sumthing average and didnt get accepted cuz a "respectable-60 sumthing" got it instead of u...would u feel it was fair?
    the school does not have a lot to go on to pick out candidates (tht is common to all candidates and easy to access)...marks do not mean the difference between smart or not smart but they do seem to indicate whether you are a hard worker/ will stick to something (many studies on this). and yes i know there are some exceptions and it depends on prg! i too have had the 15% decrease in the first year but it rebounded quite well w/ a lil perseverance and it wasnt easy since im no ass kisser.
    so this 70% avg cut off seems reasonable... it says tht u can explain "extenuating circumstances" so it seems they must accept pretty much anyone just as long as you go through the trouble of talking to them and explaining your story. so give it a shot. u got nothing to lose :)

  2. Posted by: Libertarian_1 on Feb 14, 2009 @ 2:07pm

    ...i swear articles like this are the bane of our society.

    do you seriously expect people to feel pity for you? in case someone forgot to mention it to you: marks are the number one thing that matter in university.

    i admit that i don't know you, nor do i owe you anything. but neither does the CIP. and just because you have a good feeling about traveling to another country to study and claiming you would do well won't differentiate you from the pack. what applicant doesn't share that criteria?

    i also take issue with your statement that "this is canada, a country where everybody should be treated equally and should be free from prejudice". that's a load of crap. the idea is that we live in a meritocracy. and grades are the clearest indicator of you merits. you're not entitled to anything, dude.

    and if you're upset over that then go study harder. channel that energy into acing your next test, and the test after that, and so on...

  3. Posted by: just a thought on Feb 19, 2009 @ 9:49am

    I agree that someone can be very intelligent and still not receive high marks. However, an exchange or study abroad semester is an academic experience (fundamentally) and the CIP wants to know that the students it sends over will succeed in their studies. I think an average cut-off is a very practical way of doing this.

    Also you mentioned that "more formal and intellectual methods should be exercised" in the application process. I would like to point out that the application process already also includes and is very dependent on the written answers you provide to some short answer questions on the application, feedback from references and interviews. Acceptance is not based solely on grades, that's just a cut-off.

  4. Posted by: Noah on Feb 21, 2009 @ 5:55pm

    Perhaps a better basis for the decision is who has the most money? Or maybe who is the tallest or whoever has the smallest nose?

    The reason why marks are used is because the perpetuation and advancement of our society is entirely dependent on rewarding those who put in the most effort and have the most talent.

    The "transition" from high school to University is the most played-out excuse I've heard of. If you put the effort in, you likely did well in your first year. I say that from someone who did terrible in their first year, from partying too much, and exceeded the 80% mark by 4th year.

    If you want to go abroad, do what everyone else who slacked off in their first year does: get a job, save money, and go. Alternatively, many people also study their brains out in their final two years to raise the cumulative GPA. If it is such an unreasonable expectation, then why would they make it a criteria? Obviously someone is making the grade.

    Rewarding the apathetic and lethargic would result in a degradation of society's progress. Nobody owes you anything, now get back to work!

  5. Posted by: Brent Downey on Feb 22, 2009 @ 12:19am

    I'll post an excerpt from a recently article on thecannon.ca. For all you die hard who love grading systems...open your mind a bit. The article is in response to Denis Rancourt (a prof at UofOttawa) giving out A+'s to all his students.

    "Anyone that has forgotten everything they memorized just hours after their exam can relate to what Rancourt is saying on some level. Students worry about what the professor wants to see as opposed to what they would personally like to present or explore. Do we place enough emphasis on actual understanding and fulfilling the natural desires of students to learn about what interests them... or do we just need to regurgitate the semblance of knowledge to make the grade?"

    - Too many A+'s get UofO Professor kicked out of school
    by Andrew Garvie

  6. Posted by: Jason on Feb 22, 2009 @ 9:37am

    You’re applying for an academic program, not a vacation. If you’re having academic trouble at your home university, then how can you expect to succeed in an exchange program where you also have to grapple with radical social/cultural/financial changes? By your reasoning, entrance requirements for university should be dropped as well.

    If you can’t make the grade, then it simply means the quality of your work is not where it needs to be. Much like the REAL WORLD, grades are an indication of how well you perform at a specific task given certain constraints. If you cannot perform when it’s required of you, then you will have significant issues trying to meet your educational goals. In which case, why are you applying to the program in the first place?

    “This is Canada, a country where everybody should be treated equally and should be free from prejudice.”

    I’m sorry, but academic evaluation for entrance into an academic program is anything but prejudice. Studying abroad is a privilege, not a right. Grow up.

  7. Posted by: on Feb 23, 2009 @ 11:22pm

    Isn't it a bit dramatic in suggesting that Brent Downey's thoughts are the bane of our society? and a little saddening that somebody is telling him to grow up?

    This man wants to become educated, but he also wants to see the world. His option of doing both simultaneously has been canceled out, and now he must realize his priorities; school or travel ? This man is anguished because he is faced with the task of figuring out his true desires. For this reason I feel that the only appropriate response is to show him compassion. Perhaps we should also show compassion to those who have lost their inner child.

  8. Posted by: Jason on Feb 24, 2009 @ 10:09am

    Adam Bowers:
    You are asking us to feel pity for an individual who believes that entrance requirements for an academic program are tantamount to discrimination/prejudice. Instead of feeling sorry for this person, perhaps we should stop entertaining such ridiculous assertions! You may view this as existential anguish; I view it as an unreasonable complaint from someone who isn’t appreciative of his present opportunities.

    Brent Downey is not lamenting a lost opportunity; he is deflecting responsibility. I hope that clarifies my position.

  9. Posted by: PhDer on Feb 28, 2009 @ 12:30pm

    "respectable 60-something average"

    ...and by 'respectable,' the rest of us should read 'half-assed'.

    70s are respectable...60s are simply mediocre.

    It baffles me that the writer feels slighted by the system. Then again, the ever-increasing sense of entitlement amongst the student body (yes it is there...and worse by the year) as a whole fully explains it all.

  10. Posted by: Libertarian_2 on Mar 1, 2009 @ 1:34pm

    re: PhDer

    your last sentence is what i refer to as 'the bane of our society'. it has to do with 'the sense of entitlement' you speak of.

    furthermore, i feel this article was written to appeal to the lowest common denominator. i feel its purpose was to gather every reject, underachiever, and outcast together and form a power against the CIP with the ulimate goal of denigrating the CIP, sullying its reputation, and taking a swing back at them. it's a very violent article in that respect. it's almost brutish, like the rules of the jungle are what apply here.

  11. Posted by: Libertarian_3 on Mar 1, 2009 @ 1:35pm

    unfortunately, it happens all the time in our culture. the smartest students in class are referred to as 'kiss asses', 'brown nosers', and 'suck ups'. the wealthy are referred to as 'blood sucking capitalists', 'greedy', and 'money grubbing'. society has a tendency of destroying what is great and bolstering the mediocre because once the masses are confused between what is great and what is mediocre, they question their intuition, they become passive and people who seek control are able to rule over them. however, they are the ones to be feared- those who seek to control. and that is what i fear is the 'bane of our society'. every group, committee, commission, and organization that wants their opinions heard and compromises negotiated. be wary of it.

  12. Posted by: Libertarian (not like the others) on Mar 24, 2009 @ 2:45pm

    The majority of what other "libertarians" here have written is ridden with elitist snobbery and I really don't support that view at all. This has nothing to do with the lowest common denominator, nor does it reek with sense of entitlement. There ARE better ways of learning and the grade system falls short. North America is the only continent that really places heavy weight on it, and some universities are already accepting a pass/fail mentality.
    Either you get it, or you don't and that warrants a pass or fail. You can't SORT of understand material.

  13. Posted by: Realistic on Apr 6, 2009 @ 3:11pm

    Dear OP,

    You are not experiencing prejudice. The CIP did not email you out of the ether to taunt you with the fact that your grades are too low to be considered for an exchange program. Instead, you looked into a program that requires a baseline average as a condition for consideration. You did not meet their criteria. This is a consequence of your lower than average academic performance.

    Whether you believe that your CGPA is sufficient or not is really of no consequence. You are not a victim here. Take responsibility for your own performance and recognize that the degree of success you achieve will open some doors that would otherwise be closed. Your time would best be spent pulling your grades up rather than complaining on an online forum.

  14. Posted by: Ummm? on Apr 8, 2009 @ 12:01am

    You are not experiencing prejudice. Although I do see some problems with the University grading system, there are many resources available to you to help you pull up your grades if you are willing to do the work.

    Students are falling into the 'entitlement trap', writing poor papers, putting in little effort, and demanding high marks because they paid their tuition. Opinions like these (although you are clearly entitled to your own opinion, as I am to mine) are what break the spirit of educators that really want to see their students learn, and instead they do not put the effort in, do not learn the material, and take crazy measures to try to raise their marks after-the-fact.

    Grades are given out to reward those that work hard, as well as to show when people are not doing their jobs. People that work hard are rewarded with study abroad programs and entrance into further education...just like people who work hard in the 'real' world receive promotions.

  15. Posted by: Frank Preston on Apr 9, 2009 @ 11:04am

    Two things:

    I think that it is completely reasonable to ask for a 70 average. A 70 average is not that difficult to obtain. Moreover, this policy also serves to safeguard the intellectual integrity of the U of G. International study credits are gradeless, as long as you pass the courses, you get a credit on your U of G transcript. If just anybody was allowed to attend, less academic studnets could get their degree from U of G without having to take tougher 3rd and 4th year courses.

    Secondly, what "ideologies that our great country was founded on?" Our country was founded on British Imperialism and "Peace, Order and Good Government!" Sure, our identity has changed since the Charter was introduced (at least in English Canada), but I don't see how John A MacDonald's principles have been violated. Please explain how this policy negatively affects British Imperialism? I guess members of the former-empire (India, etc) won't get to meet people with an average of less than 70? I guess

  16. Posted by: Edmund on Apr 24, 2009 @ 7:55pm

    To the OP: If you were really THAT intelligent, as you seem to imply, then you would have been intelligent enough to realize in your first year (or before that) that although grades don't reflect learning, they are important nevertheless because they are used to assess a lot of things (eligibility for scholarships, for example).

    I would have felt sorry for you if you simply wrote about how you didn't get into the exchange program because you didn't get achieve a 70.

    But I also have to be amused at your sense of entitlement and inability to see your own limits (BTW, the sky's the limit is just a load of bollocks; everyone has limits, some less than others).

    I've TAed a rather difficult chemistry course and I have seen intelligent students fall short despite the effort they put in. What I admire about these "underachievers", however, is that they can accept that "they are not cut out for chemistry" and accept it without any rancor or any loss of self-esteem. They do not rant or complain about it. What they do is continue working hard in improving themselves.

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