Against "Relative Transcripts"


To the Editors of The Crimson:

Last quarter your campus began to discuss a transcript change that would add to the transcript the number of students enrolled in the course and the median grade. On the Berkeley campus we too are discussing this proposal, referred to here as "relative transcripts." Contrary to one of your articles, this proposal is still under discussion and has not yet been implemented.

The Associated Students of the University of California have been opposed to implementation of this proposal. Unanimous resolutions in opposition to "relative transcripts" were passed by both the ASUC Senate and the ASUC Academic Affairs Council. The Graduate Assembly has also passed a resolution against relative transcripts.

We oppose relative transcripts, first because it would raise the level of competition among students, which is at an all time high already. With relative transcripts, an "A" becomes meaningless unless matched by a lower grade. Thus students are discouraged from working together, from helping each other on assignments and from doing group projects. It would be to the student's best interest that his classmates do poorly. Clearly, this does not foster the kind of educational cooperation we want at our universities.

Another reason we oppose the adoption of the relative transcript is that it will cause a decrease in the overall grade point average. Relative transcripts will create a focus upon each faculty member's grading policy, which will lead to considerable pressure on faculty, especially those in non-tenured positions, to lower their grades. Were this proposal implemented at your school, Harvard graduates would find themselves at a greater disadvantage when competing for jobs or entrance to graduate school because their grades had declined, while grades at other institutions remained at current levels.


Third, the relative transcript proposal would put an end to significant attempts at educational reform begun in the last decade. The notion of courses which are selfpaced or use contract grading, for example, which allows for student evaluation according to self-determined set criteria will be downgraded in importance because graduate and professional schools will focus their attention on courses which were graded relatively. Faculty will probably be forced into a grading-on-the-curve system, rather than one which is realistically geared to what students actually learn in a course.

Fourth, the median grade may not adequately reflect the academic quality of a course. A high median grade does not necessarily mean that a course was very easy and thus of little academic merit. It could be that the course was taken by many students who had a strong background in the field, or that a professor was succesful in having many students master the material.

For these reasons we feel that relative transcripts will be detrimental to the academic environment at any college or university, whether it be Berkeley, Harvard or elsewhere. The relative transcript proposal will mean increased competition, problems for graduates when competing for jobs or continuing their education, and an obstacle to any serious attempts at educational innovation. Steve Schirle   Academic Affairs Vice President   Associated Students, University of California