The addition of median course grades to transcripts in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts may be a long way off. The plan, which garnered much support from students and faculty, would have displayed the students’ grades as well as the median grade for each LSA course on transcripts. Citing anticipated difficulties with departing from the University’s standard of uniform transcripts across colleges, University Registrar Paul Robinson came out strongly against the proposal in a recommendation to the Office of the Provost – which makes the final decision. While Robinson is preoccupied with logistical hurdles, he fails to recognize the value of the addition of median grades to students and the overall academic environment.
By providing information about the average class performance, employers and graduate schools can assess grades more accurately. Particularly in classes with strict grading curves – such as large introductory classes, math and hard science courses – median grades will benefit those who handled the material well but were hurt by the curve.
This additional information would also serve as an effective measure against grade inflation, particularly in some humanities departments. With median grades commonly available, professors would be discouraged from dispensing arbitrary A’s and instead reserve this reward for deserving students. While there might be a drop in some grade point averages, true academic achievement would have greater meaning and respectability. Less grade inflation would also encourage graduate admissions officers to put less emphasis on standardized tests – which too often measure access to expensive private test-prep courses rather than actual aptitude or achievement – making admissions more fair.
By December 2004, both LSA-Student Government and LSA faculty approved this transcript change. If the University is unwilling to overturn its policy of uniform transcripts across colleges, the Office of the Registrar should at least compromise and make some accommodations to meet this demand. Indiana University, for instance, offers a “content transcript” that includes median grades as well as other information about the student’s college experience; in the same vein, Columbia University transcripts say what percentage of students earned a specific grade in their classes.
The final decision rests with the provost’s office. The incoming provost, Theresa Sullivan, can demonstrate a commitment to students by responding to the desires of LSA students and faculty. The addition of median grades will have a short-term benefit to those in classes with rigid curves and have a long-term benefit to the entire academic environment by discouraging grade inflation. While some students may be hurt by this change, most would be those who opt for lighter course loads and take courses with notoriously inflated grades. More information can only benefit diligent students and make a degree from the University more meaningful.