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Letter from an alumnus about the Grade debate going on

October 20. 2004:

I hope the debate on this subject continues until genuine merit prevails.

Alex Rosenfeld ’03’s letter (Sept. 15) boils down to, “If all the academic and institutional worlds have gone mad, Princeton had better go mad, too!” That’s his only defense of an artificial grading system that should have been corrected long ago.

Thomas B. Roberts ’75 makes a convincing (if incomplete) case for “anonymous grading for exams.” This is something that clearly deserves some study and might provide a big part of the solution to this dilemma.

But Laurence C. Day ’55 furnishes the most persuasive (and ethical) answer: “For Princeton to pander to the graduate schools by inflating grades makes a mockery of the curve, which should be restored to its rightful shape in the academic galaxy.”

Dean Malkiel has pointed the way to restoring sanity to scoring; let’s follow it.

Nelson Runger ’53
Yardley, Pa.

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I very much like Dr. Brock *93’s Spinal Tap suggestion (Letters, Sept. 15): “Whoa, dude, this kid’s GPA goes to 5!”

Set the grading curve, as he says, to give a “nontrivial standard deviation.” Then peg the median to match the mean of the median GPAs of our peer institutions numerically. So, if the other Ivies have a median grade of 3.7, so do we; ours just tops out well above 4. That answers some of the other writers’ objections about hiring and admitting people who merely compare numbers (which wouldn’t be any lower for students above the median GPA), while solving the grade compression problem. At least, until Harvard decides its top grade is a 9.

Rick Mott ’73
Ringoes, N.J.

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