First-Year Law Class Voices Its Objections To Optional Pass-Fail

The new class of first-year students at the Law School does not appear to be any happier with the School's optional pass-fail system than last year's class was with the old compulsory nine-category system.

More than 150 first-year students-about a third of the class-met at Harkness Common Tuesday afternoon to discuss their gripes about the system of grading options approved for last year's first-year class by the Faculty of Law in May Most favored pass-fail for everyone.

They decided at the meeting to reprint a critical student report from last year, "The Trouble With Grades." for distribution next week. About 40 students - some of them favoring the old system of grading - signed up for a steering committee which will try to come up with suggestions to present to the class.

At the beginning of the Spring term last year, a group of students distributed "The Trouble With Grades" and urged pass-fail grading. Eventually 80 per cent of the class signed a petition supporting that position, and there were rumblings of a student strike if the faculty did not act.

Derek C. Bok, dean of the Law School, appointed a committee headed by Robert E. Keeton, professor of Law, to investigate the School's grading system. That committee's report, approved by the faculty, gave each first-year student the option of having his grades reported simply as pass or fail, in four categories, or in the standard nine-category system.


Further study was ordered for this year, but most faculty members thought the School had gone as far and as fast as it could, especially since the traditional point system had been abandoned only the year before.

When the time came for the 538 first-year students to decide how they (as well as employers receiving transcripts) would receive their grades, 179 chose pass-fail, 75 chose the four-level system and the rest stayed with the nine categories. Even those who chose pass-fail may elect later to receive their grades again, this time in four or nine categories.

Some members of this first-year class fear the faculty will try to return to conventional grading. And they're not even happy with last spring's compromise. First-year student Ed Berlin said, "The system today is inadequate incorporating the evils both of pass-fail and of regular grades."