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A Gentleman’s B+
A year ago, while still an undergraduate, I wrote two columns for The D in which I discussed grade inflation at the College (here and here). While I’ve moved on from the cozy confines of Hanover, it’s still an issue that troubles me, and one I’d like to see addressed by the Dartmouth community. So I’m back in the game, for what will hopefully be an extended series of posts that examine grading from a variety of perspectives.
To start, I just want to give you a snapshot of the problem as it stands today. Below is a pie chart of all the median grades of Dartmouth courses last term with more than ten students enrolled:
Remember, the median grade refers to the grade given out to the exact middle student in the class. Medians of A-/B+, for example, describe classes with an even number of students in which exactly half of them had A- or better and the other half had B+ or lower.
So, what does the chart show?
Of the 446 courses that qualified, 56.5 percent had at least an A- median. Let me repeat that: in more than half of all courses, the typical student received an A-. Just a hair under 90 percent (89.9 to be exact) of all classes had at least a B+ median. If you’re a mediocre student these days, professors are making it downright difficult to do worse than a 3.33 GPA.
That is, as long as you’re studying in a Humanities department. Of those 45 courses that had medians below B+ last term, exactly three were from the Humanities: Film 20, Latin 1, and Philosophy 1. Meanwhile, there were seven Biology, ten Economics, and nine Math courses represented.
Only one course (Chemistry 2), had a median below a B. That 2.50 median was the single lowest at the College in the last five years. It seems that there’s at least one professor not taking grade inflation lying down.
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