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The University ruling on cuts is purposely general, but it is unnecessarily confusing and annoys many students simply because they do not know-what goes on, and nobody tells them 'til it is too late.
The rule books says that "every student is required to satisfy the instructor in each of his courses, in such a way and at such times as the instructor may determine, that he is performing the work of the course in a systematic manner." This vague proclamation doesn't help matters much. The student still doesn't know what he can and cannot do. Last year one boy attended about a quarter of the section meetings and a fifth of the lectures in a sociology course, and still ended up with a "B". Another, whose numerical average for the year in Economics A was 86 per cent, got a final grade of "C plus; too many cuts." The printed regulation stretches to include both these extremes. Each course is free to make its own rules on the number of cuts it will allow its students to take, and each section man can more or less freely interpret those rules. This forces the student to experiment and see how much leeway he can take. He is told that he has "unlimited cuts, as long as his marks are kept up,"; but he usually finds that this concession acts as a boomerang, since his marks won't "keep up" if he starts cutting. The led who would cut the most times without lowering his mark must first know the written or understood course rules on the subject, and then find out how his section man feels about it. Admittedly, this is the wrong attitude to take; but when the student is left in the dark, he turns to methods of self-preservation.
If the section man completely disregarded cuts, Harvard University would become a magnificent correspondence school. If he went to the opposite extreme, student life would be regulated by a voluminous collection of rules definitely stating so many cuts per term, per grade group, per subject. Either of these possibilities is undesirable. Our present system of leaving all judgment to the discretion of the instructor is better, except that it often costs the student an important mark to find out how his section man judges.
Each section man ought to state, in his first meeting, exactly how much class oral work, class written work, and exams are going to count on the year's grade. And if and when he feels that any student is cutting so much that his mark is liable to be lowered, he should let that student know it. The Harvard cut system is so general that the student and the section man must work in close cooperation, if it is to function satisfactorily. As it is now, the clever student often takes advantage of the section man, while the unwary student suffers.
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