Benedict: 60% of freshmen grades now based on "effort"

(Columbia) Aug. 20, 2004 - Benedict College is well into a $50 million campus improvement plan, but changes there go beyond better buildings. Benedict students now learn under a policy called "Success Equals Effort" or SEE.

President David Swinton started SEE last fall, "The whole point is to place greater emphasis and stress on their own efforts. What they're doing to acquire knowledge and learn what they need to learn."

The policy means grades for freshmen are based 60% on effort and 40% on academic performance. For sophomores, grades are 50% effort and 50% performance.

Swinton says the system is designed to help students who try hard, even if they don't score well in exams, "It would be a student who just has never developed the work ethic and study habits and routines that's required to be successful in college."

Benedict's new policy is at least unusual. News 10 checked with Allen University, South Carolina State and the University of South Carolina. None of them has anything like the SEE policy.

SEE is meeting with resistance. Dr. William Gunn has taught at Benedict for 40 years, "If I had to make a judgement, about 80% of the faculty really just hate the idea of it."

Swinton insists SEE will work, so much so, he recently fired two professors who refused to follow the policy. One, Dr. Milwood Motley told News 10 by phone that grades should be "based on what a student achieves, not what he tried to achieve."

Motley says he has "no problems" with what Dr. Swinton wants to accomplish, but does have problems "with the way he's going about it." Motley says he had a hard time giving a student a C when the highest exam score was 40%.

Professor Larry Williams also was fired over the policy.

On campus, students like Kenneth Dawkins support SEE, "What you put in is what you get out. So I feel that if you put a lot of effort in it, yeah, you should get a good grade."

1997 graduate Cornelius Cakley says Benedict has always rewarded students who try, "When I got here, the care that I got from the faculty and staff gave me encouragement to keep going, going forward."

A national university professors organization is deciding whether to formally censure Swinton for firing the teachers.    

By Jack Kuenzie
Updated 7:14pm by BrettWitt