PRINCETON, NJ—The faculty committee created by University President Chris Eisgruber to assess the University’s grading policy released its findings well ahead of schedule, recommending that no more than 10 percent of the grades given in any department should be A’s—a reduction from the current figure of 35 percent.
The report comes as a surprise to those expecting the committee to support a relaxation of the University’s grade-deflation policy. Instead, the committee advised a further reduction in the proportion of A’s awarded, noting, “grade inflation is still rampant on campus and must be stopped.”
“Anyone can waltz in, choose a few easy classes, and come out four years later with a diploma and a 3.0 GPA,” explained the report, stating that the lax grading at Princeton hurts the school’s reputation as a bastion of academic excellence. The new grading policy is designed prevent this. The report calls it “necessary for consolidating Princeton’s position as the gold standard of academic challenge and achievement.”
To guard against inflation in the number of B-range grades given out as a result of the policy, the proportion of B’s will be capped at 20%. Additionally, the current Pass/D/Fail option will be replaced by a Pass/C/D/Fail option, and any class taken P/C/D/F will no longer count towards a student’s distribution requirements. The new grading policy will likely be implemented at the start of the next school year, although the committee recommends that it be piloted in several large introductory classes in the spring.
The abrupt release of the report has surprised many. The committee was expected to deliberate on the University grading policy over the course of the next year. According to the report, however, the committee reached an overwhelming consensus almost instantly upon reviewing the available information, and felt “that further consideration of the issue, such as listening to students’ arguments for and against the policy, would only reinforce [the committee’s] conclusions.”
The policy stands in stark contrast to other schools in the Ivy League. No other Ivy League school has an established grade deflation policy of any sort, though some have debated implementing one. Yale University’s recent evaluation of its grading policy ended up inconclusive, as committee members remained divided over whether to recommend a limit of 125% or 135% A’s.
The report has drawn surprisingly little backlash from students, likely because most of the campus is spending every last spare moment desperately working and studying in preparation for finals, a gauntlet in which students are pitted in direct competition against their peers and friends for an arbitrarily yet strictly limited number of badges of success in the form of A grades. The acquisition of these A’s, or lack thereof, is often dependent on uncontrollable circumstances, such as illness or exam schedule and can have significant effects on students’ often-strained health and self-esteem, as well as their relationships with unsympathetic parents and family members who demand nothing less of their child than unqualified success, and their ability to find jobs and internships with employers who all too often fail to take such circumstances into consideration even as they welcome another 3.83-toting Harvard slacker with open arms.
—AKS ’15. Illustrated by JZS ’16.