April 3, 2012

Johnson School Debates Merits of Grade Disclosure Policy

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Although many highly ranked MBA programs in the U.S. have adopted policies of not releasing students’ grades to potential employers, the Johnson School of Business has maintained its policy of disclosing grades to those who ask. A task force comprised of students and faculty recommended last semester that the school continue disclosing letter grades, but many are still debating the potential impact on students’ job prospects.

Grade non-disclosure policies in MBA programs, such as the one at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, have grown in popularity over the last several years. The Johnson School, however, assigns students letter grades and discloses these grades to employers.

The task force spent nearly a year examining the effects of grade non-disclosure policies. Before coming to its decision, it spoke with alumni, students and representatives from companies that typically hire a large number of Johnson graduates each year.

Johnson School Student Council President José Gaztambide grad questioned the administration’s policy on grade disclosure, saying that poor grades are not always a reflection of a lack of effort on the part of students. He noted that it can be difficult to balance academics with job searches.

“The second half of first semester is when the more difficult core classes start, networking really picks up and recruiters start coming to campus,” Gaztambide said.

Richa Sood grad said that some students feel that the academic pressure that results from grade disclosure can decrease the quality of the Johnson School experience.

“[Grade disclosure] takes away from getting to know your classmates and getting to know what’s going on in the business world,” she said.

The Johnson School can not legally disclose students’ grades to potential employers without their permission. ­­

Still, because the school has not adopted a widespread non-disclosure policy like many comparable business schools, students who choose not to disclose grades can find themselves at a disadvantage compared to their peers, Gaztambide said.

He said that although other universities may not disclose grades, some students, especially those with strong GPAs, still choose to disclose them to potential employers.

“The guy with the 3.8 GPA is going to let the recruiter know it,” he said.

However, some administrators and students praised the merits of the grade disclosure policy.

Prof. Doug Stayman, marketing, and associate dean for MBA programs, cited a study conducted by two professors in the Wharton School that linked grade disclosure policies to “more learning and more studying.” He said that the Johnson’s current policy has allowed the school to place many of its best students in prominent jobs.

“It’s the best policy for the majority of students,” Stayman said. “Many students need to demonstrate good grades to employers, especially employers in investment banking or consulting.”

Gaztambide echoed this sentiment.

“My preference is for grade disclosure,” he said. “Recruiters are asking for it. It makes their job a whole lot easier, and recruiters are the school’s most important customer. It also lets [them] know that you’ve spent time on your classes.”

Gaztambide said that Wharton received negative feedback from recruiters after adopting a grade non-disclosure policy because employers felt that these students were less prepared than students who had previously received letter grades in business school.

However, he added that although a non-disclosure policy was not adopted, the committee is considering other policy changes to reduce students’ stress levels.

“Even though Johnson and the Student Council have recommended keeping grade disclosure, the task force has recommended making grade changes, such as eliminating the A+ and returning to a 4.0 scale, and making professors aware of recruiting events so that large assignments can be scheduled around them,” Gaztambide said.

However, Stayman said that the decision to disclose grades was not made before extensive consideration.

“It’s important to say that it’s not an obvious issue,” Stayman said. “It involves trade-offs. We spend a lot of time thinking about these issues and trying to strike a balance.”

Gaztambide agreed.

“It’s a complicated issue,” Gaztambide said. “There’s no easy choice.”

Original Author: Sarah Meyers

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