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Law School Gets New Grades Plan

By William M. Kutik

The Law School Faculty adopted historic grading system reforms in a five-hour meeting Tuesday. The Faculty abolished ranking, numerical grades, and averaging for all but internal purposes and adopted a revised grading scale.

The action came on recommendations from the School's Joint Student-Faculty Committee, chaired by Clark M. Byse, professor of Law. The changes will go into effect immediately for first-and second-year students and next Fall for the third-year.

Law School students are graded on a numerical scale with letter equivalents. The new scale gives higher letter grades for some numbers than did the old. Five of the eight numerical grades that used to be C's, for example, will now be B's. Under the old system, more than 50 per cent of the first-year grades were C+ or lower.

The Law School's old and new grade scales are unlike any other at the University. Although theoretically based on a 100-point maximum, grades seldom go above 80 and never above 90. The new scale is: 80 and above, A+; 77-79, A; 74-76, A-; 71-73, B+; 68-70 B; 65-67, B-; 60-64, C; 55-59, D; and below 55, F.

Under the old system, only numerical grades were reported, with averages computed to two decimal places. Students with averages of 71.50 or higher (about 30 per cent of the class) were ranked. Last year, a student with a second-year average of 72.49 would have ranked 109, and one with a 71.50 would have been 167.

Both students and professors have been critical of ranking and grade averaging for many years, primarily because job recruiters regard them as the most important criteria for employment. In a memorandum circulated in March, the Joint Committee charged, "When such substantial differences in class rank [as detailed above] depend on such a trivial difference in averages, students can only be encouraged to make grades into a fetish."

Professors will continue to submit numerical grades, which the registrar will translate into the corresponding letter grade. No numerical grades or averages will appear on transcripts. Averages will be computed only for awarding degrees with honors.

The class will be ranked only to award certain academic prizes and determining membership in the three grade-based student organizations: Law Review, Board of Student Advisers, and the Legal Aid Bureau.

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