Rid the FIMS Required Grading Policy

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As a second year student in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS) here at Western University, I can genuinely say that the content in this program is unlike any other. At times, it frustrates me and at others, challenges the way I perceive everyday concepts. Coming into the program, it was difficult to take in because of the big and foreign concepts, however, like many others, I enjoyed it. We knew our grades would take a hit transitioning from high school to university but not to the ridiculous extent of the mandatory grading curve. For those who are unfamiliar, FIMS has a strict mandatory average that restricts all required courses in first year to have a class average between 67% and 72%, which slowly increases over the future years (see FIMS Grading Policy).

You may think that it is similar to any other faculty, and that is true. However, it is rare to have a program where all the assessments are purely subjective and align with the grading curve. Unlike other faculties, where assessments can range from multiple choice to short answer, all mandatory FIMS courses evaluate students from their essays. Our creative writing is “justified” to be as low as they need to be in order to maintain that course average. First year students who come to FIMS and end up doing 10-20% better in other ELECTIVE courses, can be extremely discouraged.

Not only is the required average incredibly low for first year, but it is already rough for new students because as they adapt to this entirely unfamiliar atmosphere, their self-worth is often determined by their club positions and grades. It’s tough knowing that their friends from other faculties are able to achieve 90s while that is almost impossible in FIMS. This also has a detrimental effect on the mental health of FIMS students as we continually strive to achieve high marks, but are constantly told that our writing is not good enough or strong enough for that 80. We find ourselves constantly comparing ourselves with those in other faculties, knowing that we work just as hard but will not have the grades to represent that. We constantly go to our TAs and ask them how we can improve, but that only goes so far when our grades are predetermined by these restrictions. It is understandable that we will grow to become better writers over time, but even the strongest writers would be hard-pressed to obtain anything over 80 due to these strict requirements. Our GPA defines us more than ever because we are not defined by what we know and understand, but by the grading curve that has been forced upon us. We can put our heart and soul into these essays just to be knocked back down by the abusive relationship that is this faculty.

There is a saying that any FIMS student will hear from a professor or a TA during first or second year: “This program will break you down during the first 2 years, but we will build you back up and your grades will go up during third and fourth year!” This idea definitely has its value, as we learn to improve our writing and to think critically about our society. However, many students in the faculty also come to Western for the purpose of Ivey Business School, which is a second entry program that requires an average over 80% during the first two years here at Western. It is discouraging and unfair to those who want to enter second entry programs and graduate school because it is incredibly difficult for those in this faculty.

After university, and even throughout university, we want to find jobs and internships that will give us meaningful experience, but when asked to provide a transcript of our grades, we are hesitant because we know that they will see the result of our hard work as just a 70 in a communications program. Many students require financial support in university, but the restricted average makes it even harder on those who need to maintain a higher average in order to keep a hard-earned scholarship. When we ask our professors and TAs on how to improve, they say often that there’s nothing we can do, and that this is just how the program is structured. We are often suggested by those outside of FIMS to transfer into another faculty with objective measures in order to get the grades required for second-entry and grad programs. But who wants to study something they don’t enjoy for two whole years? FIMS is our passion, even though our grades don’t truly reflect that.

We are aware that the grading policy might not be dismissed completely, but changes must be made.