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The long-running disagreement between Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield Jr. ’53 and Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 on the subject of grade inflation took a very public turn this weekend, as the Boston Globe published private emails Lewis wrote to Mansfield.
Lewis has publicly contested Mansfield’s claims about grade inflation, particularly his assertion that it was caused in part by an influx of black students to the College in the 1960s.
Lewis sent an e-mail to Mansfield on Feb. 12 claiming that his hands are tied in dealing with the problem.
“As you know, I have nothing to do with faculty policy; [Dean of the Faculty] Jeremy [R. Knowles] has made sure of that,” Lewis wrote.
Lewis’ e-mail also blamed grade inflation in part on “a collapse of critical judgment in the humanities and some of the social sciences.”
According to Lewis, his Feb. 12 e-mail to Mansfield was explicitly private and “off the record.”
Lewis told the Globe that he considers Mansfield a friend and was “disappointed” to find that he had shared his e-mail with the press.
Mansfield told The Crimson yesterday that, after having forwarded Lewis’ e-mail to the Globe, he asked the Globe’s reporter last week not to publish it. According to Mansfield, the reporter “never got back to me.”
He also said that he met privately with Lewis last week and apologized to him.
Lewis declined to say whether he accepted Mansfield’s apology.
Knowles denies that he has shut Lewis out of the decision-making process in areas such as grade inflation.
“Dean Lewis sits on the Educational Policy Committee, the Core Standing Committee, the Faculty Council, and he’s a member of the Academic Deans,” Knowles wrote in an e-mail. “I don’t know where else ‘faculty policy’ is made and discussed!”
Knowles declined to comment on Lewis’ claim to Mansfield that “the humanities are in trouble in terms of their ability to call one thing better than another with any consistency and confidence.” Knowles said that there could be many reasons—such as smaller courses and fewer written tests—behind the higher average grades that are given in humanities courses than in the sciences.
Lewis said yesterday that his Feb. 12 e-mail was a “collegial” attempt to persuade Mansfield to abandon his theory of grade inflation. His rhetoric was “uncharacteristic of policy declarations by deans” and was therefore taken out of context by the Globe, Lewis wrote in an e-mail.
No official action will be taken against Mansfield for leaking Lewis’ e-mail, Knowles said.
“This is...a personal and not an institutional matter,” he wrote in an e-mail.
—Staff writer David C. Newman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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