HLS Faculty Rejects Pass-Fail Grading Reform

The Harvard Law School (HLS) faculty rejected a proposal on Friday to change its grading system to a pass/fail model, despite widespread student support for the change.

The reform would have made HLS' policies more like those at Yale Law School, where students are graded on a pass/fail basis throughout their three years at school.

The proposal was inspired by the results of a high-profile study conducted by the McKinsey consulting group at HLS last year. In that study, students overwhelmingly said that HLS' grading system was one of their major concerns, along with class size and faculty-student interaction.


In a faculty meeting held Friday afternoon, the proposal to change its grading policies was defeated by a vote of 30 to 19.

The vote--which occurred during HLS' reunion of black alumni--has drawn criticism from some students, who said faculty proponents were underrepresented at the meeting.

Sponsored by Gottlieb Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren, the proposal would have created three levels of passing grades including high pass, pass and low pass.

But opponents of the plan said doing away with Harvard's traditional letter-grade system would make it difficult to adequately recognize student achievement.

"A system of using as few grades as proposed would have 60 to 70 percent of our students getting the same grade,"

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