Head History Tutor Questions Grading
The e-mail has taken on particularly significance in light of the recent debate about grading practices and grade inflation at the College.
According to several professors, the Jan. 15 e-mail met much resistance among department members.
“Professor Chaplin’s memo is related to grade inflation in the sense that is raises questions about exactly how generously we should grade our students,” said Winthrop Professor of History Stephan A. Thernstrom.
Yet Chaplin said she felt the need to issue the e-mail to compensate for recent pressure on faculty to review their grading practices.
“Events throughout the fall, starting with September 11, have been distressing for everyone...[and] despite the recent hullabaloo over grade inflation, this is not the semester in which to crack down,” Chaplin wrote in the e-mail.
The e-mail was forwarded to The Crimson by a member of the history department faculty.
In response to Chaplin, a senior faculty member sent a dissenting e-mail to the department, expressing sentiments that were shared by some of the faculty.
“Terrorists have killed thousands of people, damaged the economy, and warped our politics. Shall they be permitted to undermine our university system too?” stated the e-mail, which was also forwarded to The Crimson.
The response acknowledged that students who were affected personally by the tragedy ought to receive special consideration, but “of the rest of us surely more is demanded, not less.”
Thernstrom said he agreed with the dissenting e-mail.
“Whatever the strain this event had on our students, it is no more appropriate to relax our academic standards than it would be for a professor to deliver an ill-prepared lecture,” he said.
Chaplin said she did not have any particular students in mind when she issued the e-mail and that it was meant as a general reminder.
“I felt that this was a bad moment to be having this discussion about grade inflation, it being so late in the semester and given the events of September 11,” Chaplin said.
But according to Brian E. Delay, a history tutor in Cabot House, the events of this fall did not have a tangible effect on most students’ performance.
“I was surprised with how well everyone seemed to be dealing with it, and though it was a hard time, there didn’t seem to be any absorbable impact on academic performance,” Delay said.
Another senior professor in the department said that he felt that the e-mail was “quite silly.”
“We need to treat our students as adults,” he said.
“I think many members of the department would agree with me,” he added.
—Staff writer Jessica E. Vascellaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org