LSA students planning on taking easy courses in order to boost their grade-point averages may want to reconsider their schedules if a new proposal is approved in today’s LSA faculty meeting.

Angela Cesere

The proposal, which is seen as a way to curb grade inflation, would revise official student transcripts to include the median grade and class size alongside every individual grade for classes with 10 or more students.

Members of the LSA curriculum committee said the changes to the transcript would serve several purposes. Joel Bregman, an astronomy professor on the committee, said the proposal would make transcripts more informative for potential employers and graduate schools by making grades more meaningful.

“The motivation in general is that with grade inflation, the importance of the GPA has been diminished, so employers and graduate schools feel that the GPA doesn’t mean much anymore,” Bregman said.

He added that making grades more meaningful could also help women and minorities. “Grade inflation also hurts women and minorities more, because if you don’t put much weight on the GPA, then the only thing left is the standardized exams.”

Along with the median grade, the proposal would place the class size next to each LSA class on transcripts. As a former member of the astronomy department’s graduate admissions committee, Bregman said he sees this as a useful way to differentiate core classes — which are generally large and, in science departments, are often designed to weed out a number of students — from seminar and small discussion courses.

“Where this is more important is really in the core classes of a particular concentration, when you want to see if someone was able to master organic chemistry or whatever it was,” he said. “Most of the core classes are larger, and so that’s where it’s really targeted; it’s not really targeted on one-on-one research classes or small reading classes.”

Yasmin Naghash, an LSA junior who is a student member of the committee, said the proposal could encourage students to take difficult courses without worrying about the impact on their grade point averages.

“For students who get a C+ and think it looks horrible on their transcript, if the class average is a C, at least they got better than the class average,” Naghash said. “If you got an A and the class average is an A, it’s not such a big deal.”

Paul Siegel, an LSA sophomore who is majoring in physics and mathematics, said the proposal could be helpful for students taking introductory classes with low median grades, such as Calculus II and the introductory physics courses. But, he said, the median grades may not be as valuable in certain upper-level courses.

In an honors upper-level math class that he took last year, Siegel said, every student received an A despite the rigorous workload because all of them were capable and motivated.

“The attitude was that these are smart math students who could be taking easy classes and getting A’s very easily, so they don’t want to punish you for struggling with very difficult material,” he said.

Marjorie Horton, assistant dean for undergraduate education for LSA, said Dartmouth College and several Canadian universities have adopted a practice similar to the one being proposed.

The LSA faculty meeting, which is open to observation from the public, will take place in Auditorium B of Angell Hall today from 4:10 to 5 p.m. Along with the median grade proposal, faculty members will vote on a proposal to remove “W” marks from the official transcripts of first-term freshmen who drop classes after the drop/add deadline, which is typically about three weeks into the term.

 

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