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May 13, 1976 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-05-13

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The Michigan Daily
Edited and managed by Students at the
University of Michigan
Thursday, May 13, 1976
News Phone: 764-0552
Detroit News VU review:
A study in poor priorities
A FEW WEEKS AGO the Detroit News published a series
of stories reviewing the University, purporting to
discuss in depth "Its Past, its Present, its Future." "The
U. of M. - just how good is it?" the News asks in its
first headline, and proceeds to answer the question in
a way which illuminates an unfortunate set of priorities.
What is more unfortunate is that those priorities resem-
ble our administration's own.
Reporter Stephen Cain's view of the University is at
once ostentatious and superficial. He records a series of
quotes from the University's highest officials as well as
the results of national higher education surveys, but fails
to report the views of a single student. The survey he
cites foremost is one in which professional school deans
throughout the country rate each other: thus, a group
of much-nublished, interchangeable specialists pat each
other on the back and reinforce a system of priorities
which leaves students out in the cold, having to settle
for the dubious undergraduates education provided by
500-seat lectures and harried teaching assistants.
There is little doubt that the state is lucky to have
an institution which provides such fine professional
schools, and indeed it is probably true that they deserve
to be ranked among the highest in the nation. The grad-
uate schools play host to a distinguished list of exerts
in their fields. and even undergraduates (all 29.000 of
them) occasionally benefit from the lectures of these
notables.
But University leaders quoted in the News evidently
regard such benefits as the main criterion for praise
of the institution as a whole. They are fooling them-
selves.
Says Vice-President for Acadamic Affairs Frank
Rhodes, the geology professor who ranks second in Uni-
versity policy-making only to President Robben Flem-
ing, "You can literally take your economics from some-
body who has been chairman of the President's Council
of Economic Advisers, listen to a course in education
from someone who served as secretary of Health, Edu-
cation, and Welfare, take engineering from someone who
has just built a major dam somewhere in the Middle
East, and archaeology from a man who spends his sum-
mers excavating Carthage."
Rhodes is well aware that one can pick up Paul Mc-
Cracken's and Wilbur Cohen's books at Ulrich's and
achieve far deeper insight into their wisdom than one
can glean from an hour-long lecture with a few hun-
dred other huddled undergrads. Rhodes grants that as a
undergraduate institution the University "is not an Am-
herst, an Oberlin, or a Harvard," but his emphasis on the
quality of the graduate schools as a criterion for overall
excellence is misplaced. Undergraduate education at the
University in inadequate, and no number of self-serving
national surveys can rate Michigan high enough to
change that situation and make its diploma more
meaningful.
Almost as discouraging as the administration's own
view of the University's quality is the News' shallowly
favorable presentation of the institution. Here a large-
circulation newspaper covers a complex topic with shal-
low reporting, then builds its superficial conclusions into
a giant deception which serves to convince Michigan's
taxpayers and the parents of students that their money
is being spent wisely. It is not. Michigan undergraduates
are being cheated by department heads and college
deans who demand published works before polished
teaching from their professors, and the state will let
them go ' on if the University's gilt reputation remains
untarnished.
TODAY'S STAFF:

News-Ann Marie Lipinski Mike Norton, Tim Schick,
Jim Tobin
Edit-Jay Levin
Arts-Jeff Selbst
Photo Technician-Steve Kagai.

/d
Maibox: Dissecting the
ga deeinflation issue
As we have received a heavy reader re- To The Daily:
spsonse to Michael Rout/h's article (Grade in- During my four years at the University
flaton: Mahing soasseone of everyone, May 5), of Michigan, I have acquired many distinct
the Daily is devoing today's editorial page to memories of how students behave during mid-
sone of the letters discissing the origins and terms and finals. I recall the time that I
.ofgrade inflation had trouble preparing for a history of art
i/pat r 'midterm because someone had stolen the slides
~~Te~~~;from the print study gallery; and the year
To The Daily one of my friend's professors had to dictate

Grade inflation is unquestionably the cur-
rent "hot issue" storming the university com-
munity. I am extremely disappointed that the
Daily continues to publish only the opinions
of administrators, teachers, and, most recent-
ly, bystanders (Michael Routh, May 5), ig-
noring student concern. As I see this issue,
grade inflation is merely the latest in a long
series of games played by incompetent ad-
ministrators and instructors at the expense
tof the student It seems to me that the very
source of inflated grades stems from those
who are protesting most vehemently: teach-
ers. These people are assigning grades in the
first place, and if they feel grades are in-
flated, why not simply raise standards? I
guess that isntoo simple, economically un-
sound, or theoretically unfit, but has anyone
tried it? Rather, after a series of meetings,
discussions, etc. the administration and teach-
ers cooperatively set out to remedy the situ-
ation.
These remedies are invariably not only
myopic and insensitive to students, but treat
only the symptom, and not the disease. The
plus-minus system is the first such cure. With-
out the 4.3 A+, the GPA, mathematically,
can only be reduced. A reduced grade point
reflects a treated symptom, but punishes the
studen tut who was ever concerned about
the student when the policy was decided any-
way? As a second example, there is a move-
ment afoot to add the class GPA to the course
grade on the transcript. This remedy is de-
signed to force lower grades by removing
glaring discrepancies like "class 'C,' course
'A'." But what if this is the case? Suppose
a class median is 30 points above the course
median. Should those students be saddled with
an ostensibly inflated C/A?
"
It seems to me that the
very source of inflated grades
stems from those who are
protesting most vehemently,
teachers.'
-Harold Gallick
0
Apparently administrators and teachers
have been out of school too long. At any
school, at any time, there are "cake" courses,
and everyone - yea, even administrators and
teachers - takes some of these courses. But
what about the majority of demanding courses
and consciencious teachers? Let's not continue
to ignore them, and let's not ignore the fine
job these teachers are performing: educating
students. After all, that alone is the ultimate
function of the university.
The basis of any grade, a test, paper,
essay report or oral exam is simply not
a measure of any student's achievement. The
entire evaluation i.e. grading procedure, then,
simply does not represent a student's achieve-
ment. Stuck with this system anyway, why
can't we trust the vast majority of evalua-
tors who truly do their best to represent
achievement by assigning A, B, C, D, or
E? Why can t we leave bad enough alone,
without making it worse?
Harold Gallick
May 8
(Editor's note - Mr. Galich's assertion
that the Daily has ignored students' concerns
of late in only publishing guest editorials by
administrators and faculty is incorrect. The
Daily frequently publishes student opinion;
we solicit all views and print those which we
find most interesting to the general reader-
ship.)

the final because someone had stolen all the
copies of the test. I remember hearing the
woes of many chemistry students who could
not help their fellow students for fear that
if they did, the median of the class would
go up and they would suffer the consequen-
ces.
,But as long as the Univer-
sity places more importance
on professors publishing than
on their teaching, I believe R
"easy A" courses will always
exist along with grade infla-
tion. . .
-Lisa Varnier
I agree with Mr. Routh when he states
that in order for students to improve their
minds, college must be more demanding. My
question is, however, if present academic de-
mands cause such cutthroat competition, what
will be the result of increasing the difficulty
of college courses? If it is so easy to get
an A or a B in every college course, as Mr.
Routh infers, why is the competition in classes
so intense?
I will admit that there are a number of
courses which are considered "easy A" courses
and I believe that they should either be abolish-
ed or reconstructed to offer students a great-
er challenge. But will this alone upgrade the
quality of education?
Lately, faculty and students have been so
concerned with the deluge of A's and B's that
they have forgotten that education consists
of more than merely grades. I wonder if grade
inflation is a problem of professors giving out
too many high grades, or if it is more of a
reflection of the quality of teaching at this
school.
If professors were allowed to spend more
time on teaching and designing intellectually
demanding courses perhaps there would be a
decrease in the number of As and Bs award-
ed.
But as long as the University places more
importance on professor's publishing than on
their teaching, I believe "easy A" courses
will always exist along with grade inflation
simply because most professors do not have
the time to both publish and teach.
Lisa Varnier
May7
To The Daily:
College grading standards have declined.
Grades are inflated. Yet the problem of grad-
ing, to which Michael Routh addressed his
opinion in "Grade Inflation: Making someone
of everyone", is much more complex. I am
not writing to argue the validity of his point
that professors are demanding less of their
students and that students are learning less.
I am simply tired of the over-simplifications
of problems which wetso often encounter in
our media. There are so many other factors
to be examined when deciding whether pres-
ent grading practices are good or bad. I will
name two of them. What is the role of higher
education? Is learning the only concern of
colleges as Mr. Routh implies? Is Mr. Routh
saying that there are no positive benefits to
students to whom As and Bs are easier to
acquire? It is much more convenient to write
an opinion omitting many complicating fac-
tors than to approach the problem from all
sides. But how honest is it?
Linda Fabe
Class of '78
May 9

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