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While the Board does not know the amount of material that is humanly possible to read in a week, the Board suspects that many humanities and social science courses assign reading in excess of this amount. Students, in an effort to read as much as possible, sometimes skim through the material and arbitrarily select chapters to read, undermining their own learning. As such, we sympathize with many of the concerns Prianka Misra voiced in a column earlier this semester. Assigned reading is an essential piece of Princeton coursework, but students all too often fail to thoroughly read assigned material, taking shortcuts instead. The Board encourages Princeton professors to enact measures to ensure that assigned reading can be completed by students who are actively engaged in the Princeton community while enrolled in four classes, and then hold students accountable for the assigned reading.
It is an all too frequent occurrence in Princeton courses that professors do not return final exams and papers even after final course grades have been posted. This practice reduces the transparency and accountability of course grading and deprives students of valuable feedback. Therefore, the Editorial Board believes that it would best serve the educational mission of this University to implement a policy requiring faculty to return graded final exams and papers to students at the end of each semester after grades are posted.First, a policy mandating that final papers and exams be returned enhances the accountability of the grading process. When, at the end of the semester, students are only able to see a final course grade posted on SCORE, there is no assurance that their papers and exams have been fairly and thoroughly graded. The proposed policy would ensure that students are able to at least see their exam scores and what questions they got wrong or their final paper grades and any written comments, thus holding professors and preceptors at least minimally accountable in their grading practices.Second, the proposed policy makes it possible for more students to avail themselves of the opportunity to ask for re-grading. The board believes that the opportunity to request re-grading of papers and exams in an important procedure that helps to maintain the fairness and accuracy of grading. Professors and preceptors grading an exam may make mistakes, questions can be poorly phrased or a paper may be hastily misread. Students can only avail themselves of the opportunity for re-grading if they are able to see their exams and papers and dispute any potential grading mistakes. The board believes that the benefit of allowing students to ask professors to rectify mistakes that occur in grading outweighs any potential concerns about abuse of this system.Lastly, a policy requiring final exams and papers to be returned is important in providing students with feedback that helps them to learn from their evaluations. There are clear educational benefits to students of understanding what questions they missed on an exam or learning the strengths and weaknesses of their final paper. While feedback is important throughout the semester, it is particularly significant for final assignments, which are often culminations of students’ learning throughout the course. Without a policy mandating that final exams and papers be returned, students too often do not receive any feedback and are prevented from learning as much as they could.In terms of implementation, the board believes that the University should either mandate that all exams and papers be returned or that exams and papers must be returned at the request of any student in the course. Students should be able to receive their finals as soon as possible after the end of finals period. Recognizing that some professors may reuse exam questions, the board believes it may be prudent for students in some courses to be allowed to see their graded exams for a period of time but not be allowed to keep them. The board further believes that the benefits that accrue from allowing students to review their exams exceed the costs of perhaps compelling certain professors to create new exams each year. In the spring semester, when students may return home before exams and papers are graded, professors and their departments should make reasonable attempts to return finals electronically or by mail, if requested — though exceptions would obviously apply to exams with questions that may be reused. All in all, such a policy would further Princeton’s educational mission by increasing academic feedback and making grading more accountable.
It’s a Princeton tradition to clap for a professor at the end of the last lecture of the year. For students, it’s a way to show our appreciation for the work professors do to teach classes and share their knowledge. As the end of the semester approaches and students prepare to head off for break, the Board wants to suggest that students take some extra time and effort to thank some of the other people who are responsible for the quality of our Princeton experience: the staff. Members of the staff often go unacknowledged, but they are vital to making our time here as special as it is.
On Dec. 8, the USG is planning to vote on a constitutional amendment that would formally separate the class governments from the Senate . The Editorial Board supports this amendment, as a more formal separation of the two bodies would accurately reflect the separate roles they play and the fact that one body is not superior to the other.
During the preparations for the recent bonfire, there was significant debate in the student body concerning the decision not to burn the effigies that had been included in the bonfire the previous year. The rationale given for the decision was that the burning of effigies offended certain members of the community because of the ugly racial and ethnic histories associated with effigy burning. The Board does not want to take a side in this debate because the full extent of the objections that were made and the full rationale for the decision not to burn the effigies are not known. However, the Board feels that the lack of information given about the decision and the failure to consult the student body in a timely and systematic fashion on the decision represents a failure on the part of USG, ODUS and the class councils that were involved in making the decision.
Following last week’sex post facto decision allowing Zach Ogle ’15 to run against incumbent Shawon Jackson ’15 for the office of USG president, the Editorial Board conducted interviews to determine our endorsement position in this upcoming election.After sitting down with both candidates, the Board believes that Shawon Jackson ’15 is the better choice for USG president.
The Editorial Board strongly supports ongoing efforts to provide students with information about the current cases of infection with theN. meningitidisbacteria on our campus and to continue to promote cautious behavior. In view of recent events, the Board recommends that students strongly consider receiving the vaccine against serogroup B to be made available next month.
Updated 11:03 p.m. Nov. 17, 2013
Princeton’s website explains that distribution requirements “transcend the boundaries of specialization and provide all students with a common language and common skills.”Currently, the University requires A.B. students to complete classes in seven general areas: Social Analysis, Epistemology and Cognition, Ethical Thought and Moral Values, Historical Analysis, Literature and the Arts, Quantitative Reasoning and Science and Technology.Providing a holistic education is the core of Princeton’s mission, and these requirements are a commendable measure toward that end. But Princeton’s formula for liberal education must at times adapt to the world beyond the FitzRandolph Gate.Those students who graduate Princeton with no exposure to computer programming or to basic data analysis leave this school without skills that are fundamental to the world in which we live. Accordingly, the Board urges the University to replace the STN requirement with a data analysis and computer programming requirement.
As students prepare to choose classes for the spring semester, course reviews become increasingly important. Currently, Registrar-administered course evaluations are administered at the end of every semester, after lectures and precepts have ended. However, these evaluations have many downsides. As end-of-the-semester evaluations do not affect the students writing them, they are often rushed or not completed. Additionally, the evaluations of the current system are likely non-representative because they cannot include feedback from students who dropped the course and because students’ responses are influenced by their expected grades. An effective solution to these problems would be the addition of an online mid-semester course evaluation system. Aside from a few professors who ask students for mid-term evaluations, there is no regular opportunity for mid-semester student feedback. As such, the Editorial Board strongly encourages the development and implementation of a mid-semester course evaluation system that should be accessible both to professors and students seeking to enroll in the course in subsequent semesters.
Recently, former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was asked to speak at Brown University about the controversial policy of “Stop and Frisk,” which he had helped to implement during the Bloomberg Administration. Before the former commissioner could speak, however, Brown University students interrupted the lecture and prevented Mr. Kelly from making any remarks whatsoever. With these recent events in mind, the Editorial Board believes that our campus community — both students and administration — should recommit itself to upholding the principles of free speech in accordance with the University’s broader educational mission. In stark contrast to the events at Brown University, a recent event on our campus demonstrates proper academic discourse in line with the principles of free speech.
In August, President Obama announced plans to rate colleges based on their value and affordability and to tie those ratings to the federal grants students receive when attending colleges.
As exams come to a close and many of us head off campus for fall break, the Board would like to take the opportunity to reflect on the structure of this chaotic week that we call midterms. Midterms week is unique, as students carry the burden of exams along with their regular course loads. Currently, there are few policies in place that regulate how midterm exams are scheduled and administered. With a few simple changes, midterms would be more standardized and thus fairer for all students.
Among the difficulties freshmen face when they first arrive at Princeton is meeting Princeton’s high standard for academic writing. Though we understand that Princeton’s mandatory writing seminars aim to prepare all students for this increased rigor, the Board believes that the University should provide more resources for those students who have learned English as a second language in order to help them meet this rigorous expectation.
Last week’s false alarm regarding a reported shooting incident on campus came just months after reports of a bomb on campus during the summer. Both events were covered extensively by the media on and off campus, and though the Board commends the Department of Public Safety and the Princeton Police Department for their thorough response to the incidents, we believe the University can take action to better inform students on how to respond to and stay safe during emergencies. Specifically, the Board believes that the University should more publicly disseminate a detailed action plan concerning appropriate action after a suspected shooting or bomb threat.
Last week, President Eisgruber charged a committee of nine faculty members to review Princeton’s grade deflation policy in order to determine whether the policy has had “unintended impacts upon the undergraduate academic experience that are not consistent with our broader educational goals.” The Editorial Board has repeatedly taken the position that grade deflation is detrimental to Princeton students and the overall mission of the University and is encouraged by Eisgruber’s revisiting of the policy. Today, in light of this announcement, the Board reiterates its disapproval of the grade deflation policy and proposes the potential alternative that grade distributions for courses be reported internally to Princeton students.
With the announcement of rush numbers this week, the Board feels that it is important to discuss the effects of the freshman rush ban. When the ban was initially passed, many observers thought that it would hurt membership in Greek organizations. The thought was that sophomores who were better established would have less of an interest in social organizations than new freshmen who were still looking for friends and for groups to join. However, with the release of the statistics for sorority rush, it is clear that this has not been the case. This year’s rush numbers are almost identical to the number of students who rushed in the years before the ban. While we have written in the past about the ban and still feel that it should be one semester rather than a year, we feel it is important to revisit this topic in light of these new numbers.
Last week, Yale University announced the receipt of a major donation that would help it build two new residential colleges and increase the student body by about 15% to a total of over 6000 undergraduates. The next day, President Eisgruber suggested increasing Princeton’s undergraduate student body at a Council of Princeton University Community meeting. This would be a bad idea.
Princeton has not admitted undergraduate transfer students since 1990. The admission office credits this decision to the 98 percent retention rate and the burden of an increasingly large volume of applications. In a solely economic sense, it is understandable that the University considers it a poor use of resources to make strained admission officers evaluate a large number of applicants for 20 or fewer spots. But the Editorial Board believes that Princeton’s institutional values provide reason to admit transfer students.
Princeton has long been a leader in liberal arts education, and in today’s increasingly pre-professional world, the University stands strongly behind its goal of providing all students with a broad base of knowledge. While students often bemoan distribution requirements, these courses are crucial in guaranteeing that each one of us is exposed to a wide range of disciplines and ways of thinking. Sure, the system is not perfect, but requirements ensure that, by the time we walk through the FitzRandolph Gate, we will have had at least some practice reading literature, conducting science experiments and speaking a foreign language. This is certainly a worthy goal, and the requirements do a decent job of meeting it.