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Letters to the Editor

Women make a difference

Seemingly lost in the debate over grade inflation at Princeton is an examination of the causes of that trend. We should alarmingly take note that the numbers excerpted from the grade inflation report appear to focus on two drastically different populations of students: one in which women were only beginning to be a part of, and another in which women comprised about 47 percent.


Beginning in 1969, when Princeton opened its doors to women, the doubling of the applicant pool must have yielded an increase in the number of qualified potential students who would be expected to perform better at Princeton. To be sure, the University report on grade inflation might have taken the doubling of the applicant pool into account when examining grade inflation. Since we are not privy to the report, however, we have no opportunity to peruse gross statistical errors – such as the one made by the report when it compares two vastly different student populations without noting the tremendous difference between the two.

Before the University embarks on a path to curb grade inflation, perhaps we should all take a more thoughtful look at whether or not the grade inflation is justified. If, in fact, there are more students performing at high levels, would the University want to compromise its own academic integrity by imposing and adhering to arbitrary curves? This is not the time for heavy-handed meddling with the quality of academic life.

With a surprising lack of certificate programs at Princeton, a surprising lack of seminars and a laughable inconsistency among grades in different precepts within a given course, it would appear that there are more pressing academic concerns than grade inflation. And even if the University wants to become involved in discussions about grade inflation, it should not close itself to student input. The apparent militant stance of the administration on this issue begs the question: Who precisely is the University advocating for anyway? Michael Bosworth '00

'The real reasons'

Before the University begins "refining grading standards," it is paramount that they evaluate the real reasons behind grade inflation. Yes, the student body may be collectively stronger as they are more motivated to work towards higher marks and reap the monetary fruits of their labor after graduation. And yes, Princeton students could be harmed in the job-market if the administration enacts the recommendation of the Faculty Committee on Examination and Standing since other peer institutions will not likely follow suit.

However, Princeton has a vested financial interest in maintaining its current grading policies. Few parents and alumni would continue to subsidize a $30,000-plus education if their children are bringing home B's and C's, let alone failing grades, at the end of the semester. They want concrete reminders that their money is creating the same earning power for their kids, and if that requires tinkering with previous grading policies, many would not object.

This is not to say that grades received by many students are not an accurate reflection of their work. Many marks are well-deserved and students should not be punished with strict quotas or grading rationale when a high percentage of a class excels. Nor should the University claim that students have no jurisdiction in the ultimate decision to change grading methods. It seems, however, that data and recommendations have been compiled and will continue to be discussed primarily by the faculty with almost no student input.


But, either the University must admit what students already know – that grade inflation exists for the purpose of producing marketable entrepreneurs – or it must risk its reputation by bucking the entire system to support a nobler cause. Until then, Princeton will pretend that it can serve the conflicting interests of professors, administrators, students and parents, as well as the ideal of a liberal arts education, and in the process, sacrifice them all. Maria Kubat '00

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