Transcript Changes Mulled

CUE Leans Against Reform Proposal

A plan to put class size and mean grades next to students' grades on transcripts drew little support at yesterday's Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE) meeting.

But while the student-faculty committee did not endorse the plan, it will discuss the issue of transcript reform again at its next meeting on November 30.

The proposal, intended to battle grade inflation at Harvard, was discussed last year in the Faculty Council, the CUE committee and the faculty Educational Policy Committee, but there has been no concrete move on the issue.

The agenda for yesterday's discussion said the CUE committee had to "decide whether to resubmit the proposal for further discussion" by the Faculty Council.

Because the committee did not reach a decision, Dean for Undergraduate Education Lawrence Buell asked members to tell him or Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education Jeffrey Wolcowitz their ideas on how to deal with grade inflation.

"I think [grade inflation] is a very important issue that you want to be very careful with," Associate Professor of Applied Mechanics Howard A. Stone said after the meeting. "What you heard at the committee meeting is that it's no longer clear what the proper solution is."

The discussion about transcript reform and grade inflation, which was off the record at the request of a guest professor attending the meeting, lasted nearly an hour.

Faculty and students raised a number of concerns about the proposal, which some felt would increase competition and hurt students.

Professor of History James A. Hankins said that he said at the meeting that he liked the idea of reporting a mean grade for different categories of classes, such as upper-level mathematics courses or history surveys, rather than for individual classes.

Baird Professor of Science Gary J. Feldman discussed that plan in a memo last May, and it came up again at yesterday's meeting.

But Hankins said he is still undecided on transcript reform.

"I'm wavering," Hankins said. "One the one hand, one would like to make the grades more meaningful. On the other hand, I don't like making what everyone gives public.... It's such a fraught issue."

When Hankins was teaching at Columbia University, where the mean grade for each class was published, there were problems regarding required classes, he said.

"They had a core curriculum there," Hankins said. "People were desperately trying to get into one [professor's] section [of a class] as compared to another."

"One thing I liked a lot about Harvard is that people didn't talk about grades in particular courses," he said. "I don't think that people sign up for my courses because I'm a hard or an easy grader."