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Grade Reform


means of papers; more complete communication to students of professors' evaluations of first-year exams; notation on transcripts at the end of the first year of either "pass" or "fail" in each course in place of letter grades: and a similar system of evaluation in the second and third years.

The report states that "the considerations which motivated this proposal might well lead to a reassessment of other aspects of the first year," including the roles of small sections, teaching fellows, four-hour exams, and elective course.

"I don't think these problems can be resolved by the faculty working alone." Berkson emphasized. The large majority of Harvard Law professors are graduates of the school. Berkson charged that they thus "have a tremendous institutional bias in favor of the status quo, having succeeded very well in it." "It might be tough to convince them of the present system's problems," he added.

"Unless we can work this out together." he emphasized, "I'm afraid that any answers the committee comes up with won't be satisfactory."

Besides Keeton, the committee members are: Clark Byse, professor of Law; Archibald Cox '34, Samuel Williston Professor of Law; Benjamin Kaplan Royall Professor of Law; Charles R. Nesson '60, professor of Law; Albert M. Sacks, associate dean of the Law; Albert M. Sacks, associate dean of the Law School; and Lloyd L. Weinreb, professor of Law.

Range of Viewpoints

Berkson said he thought it is "a good, balanced committee, that includes a wide range of viewpoints." Cox is believed to be the only committee member who has made any public statement on the concept of a pass-fail grading plan.

In response to a student letter printed in the Law School's newspaper in December, Cox blasted the pass-fail idea and defended graded exams. Although his lengthy statement was sent as a personal reply to the letter's author, first-year student Jonathan Brant, copies of the typescript have been widely circulated among students and faculty members.

On exam grades, the letter says: "There is not only no better measure of relative intellectual accomplishment and ability of graduating students; there is simply no alternative measure at all."

Cox's Reply

In answer to the criticism that students' first-year exam grades determine their legal careers, Cox wrote the following:

"One has to learn someday that he can never hope to be a Supreme court justice, or the leading teacher in Property, or the head of the Peace Corps, or even the senior partner at Rolly, Polly, Gamin & Spinach. Perhaps it is just as well to face a kind of preliminary and inconclusive sorting out even while one is in law school, for this may make it easier to face a sorting out that he confronts all through his life in a competitive profession and a competitive world."

Cox's letter does not necessarily reflect his reaction to the students' report, since he sent it weeks before the report was written. Another of the report's authors pointed out yesterday that the reforms they advocate are much more complex than the ones Brant presented in his letter.

Members' Reputations

The committee members are considered distinguished members of the Law School. Cox is a former United States Solicitor General and chaired the commission that investigated last spring's upheaval at Columbia University. Keeton is the co-author of a revolutionary new car insurance plan that passed the Massachusetts House in the summer of 1967 and is presently being considered by several state legislatures.

Byse played an important role in the establishment of the Law School's first joint student-faculty committee two years ago and served as its first chairman.

Sacks is the School's associate dean, and Kaplan is said to be highly respected by the faculty. Nesson and Weinreb just received tenure this year.

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