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Yale, Columbia Professors Forced To Back Down on Grading Fight


A sociology professor and an English instructor who tried to buck the grading systems at Yale and Columbia have been forced to back down, at least for a while.

Richard G. Tristman, who gave A's to all 40 students in one of his English sections, has been forbidden by the Columbia English Department to teach his second semester courses.

Robert M. Cook, assistant professor of Sociology at Yale, agreed last week to abide by minimum university requirements and report grades of "satisfactory" for students in his seminar.

Cook originally said he would not grade his students, but when required to do so by the dean's office he allowed his students to grade themselves. The group decided to turn in all 100's, but the administration objected again.

Both teachers objected to grades as a matter of educational philosophy.

"To grade students is, in a sense, to treat them like products in a meat market," Tristman said, but he added that his grading policy could be taken "at least in part" as a protest against the Selective Service System and the war in Vietnam.

Cook believes grades "have nothing to do with education" and are used for the wrong purpose, such as ranking for the Selective Service. But simply giving out high grades, he said, would be an ineffective way of fighting the Selective Service, since it would only lower the class rank of students outside his course.

Cook is in the process of drawing up a set of proposals for changing the grading system at Yale.

His main proposal will be that the grading system as a creation of the faculty be eliminated and that each professor be permitted to grade the way he wants.

He will also propose that Yale establish a new branch of the college which would offer freer education--"something like the Harvard Freshman Seminars, only for fur years," he said.

The proposals will go to the faculty through its Course of Study Committee. Cook is optimistic that some changes will be made, though he suspects that none of the changes will be radical. Many people, he noted, consider the Yale faculty to be more conservative than the administration.

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