The Proper Diagnosis for Grade Inflation
Dartboard recognizes that grade inflation exists and that it is a problem both at Harvard and at every other institution around the country. Furthermore, Dartboard is not advocating letting this problem fester, but is appalled at the inconsiderate manner the University is taking to solve this problem. Two issues come to mind:
First, the University is harming students. By publicly stating that inflation is a “serious problem,” Harvard is telling future employers, graduate schools and the public at large that an “A” isn’t worth a grain of salt, and a “B” is worth even less. By publicly admitting that inflation is a problem at Harvard, the University is hurting students’ chances of success in the future.
It’s certainly shocking that almost half of grades are some form of an “A,” but that does not mean that Harvard students don’t work hard. Dartboard doesn’t have statistics, but when talking with friends at other universities, Dartboard has found that no one spends more time working or studying than the average Harvard student.
Second, the University is harming its name. The prestige, pedigree and power associated with our University holds considerable weight in public and private circles. Surely, we have all experienced the effects of dropping the H-bomb in conversation.
But the reason the University’s name has some power is that Harvard has tried to guard itself from scandal and criticism. By stating to the public that only Harvard has these problems of grade inflation, the University is eroding the part of its image that makes it the academic institution of the highest caliber.
Dartboard feels that if the University wants to help its students while still maintaining academic integrity, it should change the debate slightly. We should get statistics showing that grade inflation is a problem at all universities (or at least throughout the Ivy League) and then assert that Harvard is leading the fight against grade inflation. If we position ourselves as the doctor rather than the diseased patient, we’ll be telling future employers, grad schools and the public that Harvard is still the best because we are willing to confront the problems that afflict all of higher education.
—GANESH N. SITARAMAN
That’s Sure Swift Thinking
Just when it looked like Jane Swift was gathering up the tatters of her political career, she became the Grinch that stole the economy. About a month ago, Governor Swift introduced her latest gimmick to rejuvenate the sagging Massachusetts economy: a “tax-free weekend” when the 5 percent state retail tax would be suspended for all items purchased.
A savvy shopper could pick up that $34,000 ring at E.B. Horn without worrying about that pesky little $1,700 retail tax; a penny-pinching mom could buy a $25 Tickle-Me-Elmo and put away that $1.25 savings for a rainy day.
Sounds brilliant—except for the fact that the proposal will be surely laughed out of the legislature. Even Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham ’72 and House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, who normally get along like Frosty the Snowman and a tanning bed, are united in their opposition, pointing out that all a tax-free weekend will accomplish is a consolidation of November and December retail activity into one weekend. Dartboard envisions overcrowded stores, fistfights over parking spots and widespread pandemonium. Not to mention the empty malls on the weekend after the tax-free extravaganza.
By doggedly pushing the proposal, Swift may be convincing consumers to postpone big-ticket purchases for the tax-free weekend—in other words, shelving them indefinitely. Regardless, Swift pressed ahead and spoke about the proposal at the Cambridgeside Galleria on Monday afternoon, sounding less like governor and more like a 6-year-old begging her parents for a pony.
“This idea is a win-win on so many levels,” Swift plaintively told the Boston Globe on Monday. “Don’t reject a good idea just because of where it came from. Why don’t they [legislative leaders] just give it a chance?”
If tax-free helicopter rides home become part of the deal, then maybe Dartboard will be willing to talk.
—Jonelle M. Lonergan