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Vote on Core Reform Unlikely

By David A. Fahrenthold

At yesterday's meeting of the Committee on Undergraduate Education (CUE), two deans and a senior faculty member confirmed that a vote on Core reform is unlikely this term.

The committee also considered grade inflation and the pass/fail deadline during its meeting yesterday.

Examining his quotes in yesterday's Crimson at the beginning of the meeting, Malinckrodt Professor of Applied Physics William Paul stood by his statement that full discussion and a binding vote on changes to the Core would be difficult to fit into the Faculty's spring schedule.

Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 and Dean of Undergraduate Education David Pilbeam also urged more discussion before the vote.

"It's important that this be a long, thorough consultative process, and one hour's discussion at a faculty meeting seems to be shortchanging the issue," Pilbeam said.

Lewis said he did not think a vote before the end of the year was possible.

CUE's student members include Sarah K. Hurwitz '99 and James T. Grimmelmann '99-'98, two-thirds of an Undergraduate Council core review committee that earlier this year recommended an expanded system of departmental bypasses.

"We can't go through and make all the courses in the catalog bypasses, but we'd like to have about four departmental courses added at the end of each Core section," Hurwitz said. "It's not crazy or extreme, and there won't be any arm-twisting of professors."

Lewis responded that departmental bypasses would reduce the incentive for professors to undergo Core Committee scrutiny.

"The whole process is arm-twisting," he said. "There's a process of persuasion to change the nature of the course, which would be impaired by the availability of bypasses."

Committee members also discussed the number of departmental classes required to petition successfully for Core credit. Susan Lewis, director of the Core, said one course is often sufficient for Science requirements, while two or more are usually required in other areas.

Grade Gap

Student members of the CUE also brought up concerns about the College's grade scale, which currently skips one point out of 15 between letters, for example awarding 14 points for an A- and only 12 for a B+.

"If you take Bob Student in a science class with an 89 average, he gets a 12, while Jane Student with a 90 will get a 14, which is a one-point difference that becomes a chasm in gradepoints," Hurwitz said, suggesting a 13-point A-/B+ grade.

Susan Lewis said the current system has been in place for at least 20 years. Similar grade-reform schemes have surfaced several times in recent years without success.

To deal with perceived grade inflation, Paul suggested that the median grade for each class be included in parentheses next to the grade for that class on a student's transcript.

This particular reform was first proposed at Harvard in 1976 and was most recently resuscitated last spring.

"[The current system] is an odd system for averaging grades, where a student with an A and a B+ does worse than two A-'s," said Jeffrey Wolcowitz, assistant dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for undergraduate education. "Really nobody else has the same system."

CUE Student members also suggested moving back the deadline for students applying to take courses pass/fail, currently set in the fifty week of the term.

Wolcowitz, who is also a senior lecturer in economics, suggested that student members look into the history of their concerns with grade reform and the pass/fail deadlines and formulate proposals for future meetings

CUE Student members also suggested moving back the deadline for students applying to take courses pass/fail, currently set in the fifty week of the term.

Wolcowitz, who is also a senior lecturer in economics, suggested that student members look into the history of their concerns with grade reform and the pass/fail deadlines and formulate proposals for future meetings

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