1 - Cornell has a very weak graduate school placement rate and is far lower than most top schools, according to the Wall Street Journal. This data is much more important than any US News ranking. This is what difficult grading does.
2- According to the NY Times, Cross admitted students are not often selecting Cornell, and the rate at which Cornell is selected is decreasing every year. This is what difficult grading at cornell does.
The New York Times > Week in Review > Image > Collegiate Matchups: Predicting Student Choices
3- Median grades will be on your transcript. Do the math - and it is easy to see how that hurts most every student in most every course. Even doing better than the median may not look that good if you are only a 1/2 grade above it. Did you know median grades would be on your transcript at Cornell?
4- Look at Cornell's acceptance rate to top graduate schools. It is about 1/2 of the other ivys.
5 - US News says Cornell has the lowest percentage of ivy alumni contributing. This is what hard grading and bad grad school acceptance rates can do.
Letter to the Editor: Professors and Students. Thou Shalt Read This Letter.
To The Editor:
Regarding Cornell Sun Articles
Re: "Professors: Thou Shalt Read This Column," Opinion, Nov. 10
and "Students, Thou Shalt Read This Letter, "Opinion, Dec. 1
Professor Pitts and Sam Dean importantly address promoting a positive relationship between students and faculty. Unfortunately however, they miss the mark by failing to assess the source of the tension between the two.
Recent articles in the Sun have focused on the efforts at protecting students from gorge related incidents, as well as a recent legal suit filed against the University.
What is remarkably absent from the dialogue about the interaction between students and faculty is why this University has a significant issue with student dissatisfaction, often resulting in significant consequences. Not one of our peer institutions faces a student dissatisfaction problem even remotely close to what is presented on our Ithaca campus. Not one of our peer schools has an administration as preoccupied as ours with protecting students from themselves with barriers or similar efforts. Not because our peers do not care about their students. Quite the contrary, they care enough about their students to avoid a problem such as the one we have. Plain and simple, student dissatisfaction at Cornell largely lies in the consequences of difficult grading practices throughout the undergraduate colleges at Cornell.
While Cornell's efforts at increasing student mental health services is admirable and serves as a model, the time has come for Cornell Professors and Administration to ask why is it that our students have a level of dissatisfaction and pressure that is not found at any of our peer schools. It does seem rather manifest that the level of student dissatisfaction is significantly tied to the extraordinarily difficult and often unfair grading practices which are employed by a significant number of departments. Professors need to understand that our students are competing against students from peer schools who, by most every account and study, receive significantly higher average grades. How can a Cornell student fairly compete against a student from, say Columbia, when that school has no policy of creating a bell curve for grade distribution in any department, and almost 70% of all the grades they issue their undergraduates are A, similar to Brown, Yale and others? The Cornell practice of taking a high achieving student body and then, in many instances, issuing them grades on a bell curve, has resulted and continues to result, in substantial student dissatisfaction, something from which none of our peer or peer-like schools suffer.
Increased mental health services and increased dialogue between students, faculty and administration is a positive. Yet it still does not solve or directly address the underlying problem, which is largely rooted in the unreasonably harsh grading practices utilized at Cornell. Add to this practice the policy of posting what the Registrar terms "median" grades on transcripts and you have an unreasonably high pressure atmosphere. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the posting of median grades on transcripts adversely impacts the vast majority of students, and thus even further enhances student stress levels.
Is there even one Professor at Cornell who had median grades on his or her undergraduate transcript? Is there even more than a handful of present students who knew of Cornell's harsh grading practices, or that they would have "median" grades on their transcript, before they matriculated? Is it any surprise that the end result is many unhappy students?
Cornell students and faculty should work together. Students love to learn and so does the faculty. Yet it is difficult to truly love learning when, as a student, you know that the grading policy at Cornell is significantly more difficult than most, if not all, peer schools. The perception that employers and graduate programs factor in Cornell's difficult grading is not at all supported by the data, which is reflected in our relatively poor employment success rate or graduate admissions rate as documented by a number of reliable publications. A cursory review of the employment practices at any large financial sector company, law school or graduate program, reveals that they do not take a college's grading practice into account. With Cornell's difficult grading, and reporting of median grades, the end result is the overall inability of Cornell students to fairly compete with students from peer colleges.
With the existing grading practices at Cornell which are harsher than most (possibly all) ivy and ivy-like schools, combined with the additional difficulty posed by median grade reporting on transcripts, how can a Cornell student fairly compete?
Professors, read this: Grade students more fairly; do not create a bell curve amongst a class of students that are often all well qualified and gifted. Give students the grade they earn. If they all get As, give them all As. If they all get Bs, give them all Bs. If Columbia or Brown can have introductory courses in economics, math, psych or chemistry where nearly every single student can earn and receive a grade of A, why can't Cornell? Why does Cornell inflict such hard grading on its students, disadvantaging them against other peer schools? Is this the reason why student satisfaction at Cornell is lower than the other ivys?
Students, read this: Professors do care and are not working against you. They want to challenge and get the best out of you. We are all in this together. Let professors and administration know of your concerns and what you think can be done to help you, your fellow students, and the University.
Administratiors, read this: Why has median grade posting on transcripts not been finally eliminated? How many more students have to be burdened by a transcript full of median grades, which by any explanation, interpretation or evaluation almost always works against the Cornell student in his or her post-undergraduate pursuits.
Professors, Administration and Students, read this: Let us not be afraid to ask the difficult questions about student satisfaction and make the changes that are necessary. Let us all do what is best for the continued success of this great University, its faculty and its students.
Low Student Satisfaction Compared to other IVYs:
Division of Planning & Budget
Brown University has repeatedly been ranked as having the happiest students in the country. Would it make sense for Cornell to consider adoption of Brown's grading and course policy which does not allow curving and only allows for issuance of grades of A,B or C and prohibits grades of D or F, and has an open curriculum which allows students to take as many classes as they want for credit and without any grade or GPA? There is no median grade reporting of any kind at Brown. Nearly 75% of all grades issued at Brown are A. How can a Cornell student compete with that?
The New York Times did a survey of applicants that were cross accepted to Cornell University and other ivy league schools. The survey revealed that Cornell was the least selected school compared to the others? Median grade reporting on transcripts is something that will hurt most students by making them look average and will make it even more difficult to attract top students who are cross admitted. Eventually, it will affect the alumni.
page 21 of Cornell University's Strategic Plan, something that was produced after quite a bit of effort and expenditure of funds. The Plan most clearly indicates that "The health and well-being of students deserve special attention, because increasing reports indicate that excessive stress is negatively affecting students learning." Is difficult and curved grading the problem? If you have a friend at other ivys you know that the policy of ot grading on a curve does not exist there. At those schools everyone gets the grade they earn, even if everyone gets an A or B. Can Cornell students in courses with curved grading fairly compete???
Very simply, the problem is that University Leadership has failed to address the causes of student stress, which in large part is the product of excessive work, grade deflation, grade curves and the Registrar's reporting of Median Grades. The result has been decreased job prospects and relatively low admission rates at top graduate programs for our undergraduates. The low level of student satisfaction and high level of stress on campus is thus often carrying over with our students even after graduation.
Dialogue is important. Discuss and analyze this with professors and students; comment whether you think it is right or wrong; and what can be done to bring about positive change for the entire Cornell community.