June 4, 2003: Notebook
Grading practices under review
Data show that grade inflation continues
University administrators again are trying to end grade inflation at Princeton.
In a recent memo to the faculty, Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel said grade inflation has continued since the University last addressed it in 1998. We have made progress but not nearly enough, wrote Malkiel, who has asked departments to help reinvigorate the effort by reviewing grading practices and developing written guidelines for departmental grading.
Whats important is that faculty give students a discriminating assessment of their work, Malkiel says. The grades that students receive should teach them something about the effort that they have put forth, and what they need to do by way of further efforts to do better.
Grades of the Class of 2002 illustrate the problem, Malkiel wrote. Who could have ever imagined that we would reach a point where a student with a straight B average would rank 923 out of a graduating class of 1,079 or where a student with a straight C average would rank 1,078?
Between 1997 and 2002, the mean G.P.A. was 3.36; between 1992 and 1997, it was 3.30; and between 1987 and 1992 it was 3.21.
Malkiels memo also noted that the range of grades had narrowed significantly. Between fall 1997 and spring 2002, 45.5 percent of grades in undergraduate courses were in the A range; 38.7 percent were in the B range; 7.3 percent were in the C range; and 1.5 percent were Ds or Fs. Between 1992 and 1997, 42.5 percent of grades were in the A range, 40.5 percent in the B range, 9.6 percent in the C range, and 2.0 percent were Ds or Fs.
Students on April 30 gave President Tilghman a petition with more than 500 undergraduates signatures to protest the tenure denial of historian Andrew Isenberg and planned to send the petition to the Board of Trustees. Fifteen graduate students signed a letter to Tilghman on Isenbergs behalf. Isenberg, an assistant professor who received the presidents distinguished teaching award in 2001, has appealed the tenure decision.
Students have protested tenure decisions before, but Dean of the Faculty Joseph Taylor called the extent of this protest unusual. Taylor heads the tenure advisory committee, whose deliberations are confidential and which makes recommendations to the president, who then makes final recommendations to the board.
Princeton dedicates new home for a changing field
Photo: Carl Icahn 57 receives a hug from President Tilghman as he is presented with a scale model of the Carl Icahn Laboratory; Peter Lewis 55 looks on.
The laboratory and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, housed in the laboratory, were dedicated May 8. Tilghman gave Lewis, an art patron, a large photograph, set in a light box, of the buildings window louvers. On hand at the ceremony were numerous Icahn and Lewis family members, as well as the widow and five children of Paul Sigler 55, Lewiss best friend, for whom the institute was conamed.
Later, David Botstein, who will head the institute, gave a genomics overview, pointing out that biology is no longer a cellular science, but a molecular one. Today, advanced computer databases and sorting operations are an integral part of analyzing genetic codes. Computer science didnt move into biology, he said. Biology has moved into computer science.
Because of these changes, what is needed is a curriculum that integrates biology with computer science, chemistry, math, and physics, Botstein said. His plans include offering integrated introductory courses and requiring undergraduates to work on projects with unknown outcomes, resulting in publishable material.
Photos: princeton communications
John Keaney, professor of classics emeritus, died April 21, after a brief illness. He was 70. Keaney joined the Princeton faculty as a lecturer in classics in 1959 and rose through the ranks to become professor in 1970. He retired in 2000. He taught Greek and Latin language and literature, Greek drama, Plato, Aristotle, and Homer. Keaney played a central role in revising the classics curriculum. A 1953 graduate of Boston College, Keaney earned a masters degree in 1955 and a Ph.D. in 1959 from Harvard. His books included The Composition of Aristotles Athenaion Politeia: Observation and Explanation (1992) and The Lexeis of Harpocration (1992). He also edited or coedited several others.
Theodore Weiss, professor of English and creative writing emeritus, died April 15 of Parkinsons disease. He was 86. For 60 years, Weiss, along with his wife, Renée, was editor and publisher of the Quarterly Review of Literature, which published works by William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, e.e. cummings, and Ezra Pound, among others. He received his B.A. from Muhlenberg College in 1938 and his M.A. from Columbia in 1940. He came to Princeton in 1966 as a poet-in-residence and was appointed professor of English and creative writing in 1968; in 1977 he was named the William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature. An award-winning poet, Weiss wrote more than a dozen books of poetry and was a recipient of numerous honors and fellowships. He was the subject of an award-winning 1987 documentary, Living Poetry: A Year in the Life of a Poem, by Harvey Edwards, and was featured in a follow-up film, Living Poetry 2: Yes, With Lemon.
TITLE IX Amid cheers and hoots, a bell clanged open Title IX Bout, a recent panel discussion organized by Maura Bolger 03 as an offshoot of her senior thesis, Title IX Bout: Mens Sports Down for the Count. Much like combatants in a boxing ring, panelists traded views about Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in college athletics.
Dan Fulks, faculty athletic representative at Transylvania University, said that many colleges spend too much on revenue-generating sports, such as football, to the detriment of womens sports. Jeff Orleans, the principal author of Title IX, defended the legislation. But Clay McEldowney 69, who fought to save Princetons wrestling program from elimination, criticized it. Preferential treatment of one sex in an effort to equalize the numbers usually represents a loss of opportunities for men, he said.
Other panelists included Donna Lopiano, executive director of the Womens Sports Foundation, and Deborah Perry, senior fellow for the Independent Womens Forum. Jordan Amadio 05
UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH A small group of seniors in the sciences gathered last month at a first-ever student-organized research symposium to share their work. The projects ranged from neural perception to data encryption to magnetochemistry; many were interdisciplinary.
My advice to students is to become as broad as possible, said Charles Steinhardt 03, an astrophysics major, whose research is in string theory. Jacob Glass 03s research, also interdisciplinary, combined molecular biology with data security. His thesis explores the possibility of using DNA to store information.
Symposium organizer Jordan Amadio 05 said he hopes the event becomes a tradition. We hope to give a better idea of how the independent research process is at Princeton.
Jonathan Cheng 05
Aaron Friedberg, a politics professor in the Woodrow Wilson School, will join Vice President Dick Cheneys staff as a deputy national security adviser and director of policy planning. His one-year term begins this month.
Economics professor Harvey Rosen, who is codirector of the Center for Economic Policy Studies, was nominated to serve on President Bushs Council of Economic Advisers. The council provides the president with economic analysis and advice on a wide range of policy issues.
Daniel Peng 05 and the Recording Industry Association of America reached a settlement May 1 in the lawsuit the R.I.A.A. filed against Peng in April. The suit charged that Peng created a search engine that allowed computer users to access copyrighted music files on Princetons local network. Peng, who had shut down the site, did not admit guilt, but agreed to pay $15,000 over several years.
Tom Szaky 05 and his company, TerraCycle, won the grand prize in the 2003 Carrot Capital Competition, and will receive up to $1 million in venture capital. TerraCycle is a startup company that uses technology to replicate and enhance the natural process of recycling waste through the use of red worms.
Photo: This 160-year-old Cedar of Lebanon tree on the west side of Prospect House fell April 7 after a storm brought in heavy, wet snow and strong winds. No other major damage was caused.