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November 09, 1988 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-11-09
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News Features OCTOBER 1988

OCTOBER 1988. Student Body


Rise in grades attributed to better, concerned students

By Matt Freeman
The Dartmouth
Dartmouth College, NH
"The 'gentleman's C' no longer exists
in 1988," said Jere Daniell, a history
professor at Dartmouth College for 24
Thanks to grade inflation, "a 'C' is an
indication in the system of what a 'D'
was 20 years ago ... namely that you
are at the bottom of the class," Daniell
Between 1958 and 1988, the average
grade point average (GPA) at Dart-
mouth has risen a full point from 2.2 to
Mathematics professor William Sles-
nick partially attributes the grade infla-
tion to a change in the student body at
Continued From Page 1
Stanford and Yale's registrars ack-
nowledged that their students' trans-
cript grades probably average over 3.3
,i on the 4.0 scale. "The 'gentleman's C'
maybe has been replaced by the 'gentle-
man's B,'" said Meeske, a Yale alum-
nus. "To get a 'C' is seen as a bad grade
al now."
Yale passed a resolution this year to
tighten up requirements for general
honors, becoming the first prestigious
college to go public with a grade infla-
tion problem. The school sought to pre-
serve "the credibility of Yale, of our
graduates and our transcripts," Meeske
said. "We didn't want everyone saying,
'Oh, everyone gets honors at Yale.'"
Prior to this year, according to
Meeske, 50 percent of Yale seniors
graduated with honors. "It became
almost a lack of honor not to get an
honor," Meeske said. The resolution
limits awards to a maximum of 30 per-
cent of graduating seniors.
One of the reasons for the rise in aver-
age grades at U of C was financial,
Nicholas said. In the'50s and before, the
college was forced to take students who
were "not the most intellectually able,
but were financially able." Increases in
financial aid awards allowed a number
of better students, who might otherwise
have been inhibited by tuition costs, to
attend schools such as U of C.
English Professor Wayne Booth
points to a more direct cause of rising
grades at the college.
In 1968, largely as a response to the
grade inflation that had been occurring
at Ivy League schools since the early
'60s, the U of C faculty united to pass an
official recommendation encouraging U
of C to relax grading standards.
Booth favored and said he abided by
this recommendation, which was called
for because students and faculty felt U
of C graduates were being penalized by
graduate schools and potential em-
ployers for their school's higher stan-
"In the humanities and social scien-
ces, hardly anyone fails who does the
work," Booth said. He added that his
average grade is now between a 'B' and
a 'B+', compared to about a 'C+' before
the faculty recommendation.
Registrar's figures show Booth's cur-
rent grading standards to be typical of
U of C professors in general. Thirty-
eight percent of autumn quarter grades
were some kind of 'B', 27 percent were
A's and only 15 percent of the grades
were C's.

the college. "To me, the biggest differ-
ence in my 26 years is that the bottom
that I used to struggle with isn't getting
in anymore . .. I'm sure the students
are better," he said.
"I remember, it must have been
around the mid-seventies, when stu-
dents started to come into my office
"The 'gentleman's C' no
longer exists in 1988."
totally distraught because they had got-
ten a 'B +'. .. that hadn't happened be-
fore," said Assistant Dean of the College
Richard Sheldon.
Sheldon said that today he notices a
"more hard-boiled attitude towards the

courses ... a kind of 'just tell me what
to do for an A and I'll do it' attitude."
"We're in an era where students wor-
ry more about grades than they used
to," said Thomas Bickel, College reg-
istrar, who was also a professor of
mathematics for 21 years.
"One difference is the change in the
quality of class discussions. . . the stu-
dents are poised to take down what you
say but aren't as interested or willing to
talk about it," Sheldon added.
"I think it's something we need to
keep an eye on," Sheldon said. The issue
of grade inflation may soon be a topic of
concern, he added, "because of Presi-
dent Freedman's concerns. It wouldn't
surprise me at all if that were brought to
the floor in the next year or so.
"It's a hard thing to monitor because

it varies from department to
ment," Sheldon said. He also
attributes the inflation to the fT
"some teachers are known to gi
A's and they usually teach big
courses - that can make a big
The inflation of GPAs is a hard
ment to stop, some professors ass
would be irresponsible of me t
students to cling to an older m
grading," Daniell said. He add
"rank in class is what mattes
Grade inflation is also an i
many other colleges across the
"It's not something just isolated a
mouth, it's happened everywher
Daniell said.

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