I regret that I must write another letter to the editor, but my last one was insufficient or too late. I still have hope that Boston College can continue to be a place where learning is fostered and prioritized over grades and all students have the opportunity to do well based on their own abilities.
As the CSOM guidelines were developed, students were ill-informed. While student input is incredibly necessary and often lacking at BC, in this case, simply communicating with students about potential changes would have been sufficient. The only official input referenced was from recruiters, and I lack the word count to fully unpack our flawed success paradigm here.
Although, in general, grades may not change much, these guidelines set a precedent and do risk being restrictive. While claiming the guidelines are suggestions, untenured professors have implied that they are mandated to follow them. Any deviation from the norm by untenured professors is a risk, which is an underlying issue in this case and a larger one within our current higher education system.
One professor warned our class during add/drop week that he was difficult and a hard grader, so he would understand if we left. Considering the price of tuition, I want a hardworking learning experience, but it is not fair for my grades to suffer. Additionally, even if I wanted an easier class, due to my schedule, that section was essentially the only one I could take. Are we satisfied with a system where schedule conflicts increase my workload relative to my peers?
The issue is not with inconsistent grades, but rather inconsistent workloads and teaching across professors. This is to be expected and is not necessarily a bad thing, though we should recognize what it is, rather than refer to it as merely a grading issue.
While adamantly defending arguments in regard to grade inflation, the administrators simultaneously attempt to frame their decisions as a focus on consistency. This argument is flawed as not all professors nor workloads are consistent. They talk about students choosing professors because they are easy, yet the guidelines are focused on core CSOM classes, which are supposed to have relatively the same content and difficulty. Why is the focus on grades if there is an awareness that it is the work that is overly difficult or easy?
The statistics mentioned are also confusing as a .2 increase in GPA over 10 years is considered inflation, in a time when SAT scores increased by 90 points. They even reference grading in the 1960s, a time when BC was a commuter school. Not to discount the abilities of those students, but BC has grown into a global, top-tier institution.
I respect and believe the fact that the administrators do not intend to hurt students. However, consistency in teaching practices must be evaluated more thoroughly before implementing such guidelines and I hope that in the future, transparency, communication, and student input are valued a bit more.
Kyle Rosenthal CSOM ‘21