TGFC: Thank Heavens for Cornell

Apr 2 2015

The figures are in, but the raw acceptance numbers are not the real story:

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The acceptance rate is:

Ivy Acceptances 2015 GraphA.jpg

Last year we accepted 11.5% of all applicants, so we are improving on selectivity at 10.3% this year, but recall that these numbers can be gamed. The way to do so is to carefully choose who and how you accept your applicant class: you focus on the people you know will accept your offer of admission:

Legacies: Starting with the Class of 2014, we ramped up by almost 40% the number of legacies that we accept. They almost all matriculate.

Early Decision: The College can adjust its selectivity figure by admitting more ED applicants. Almost all of them matriculate, too. This year we admitted a greater number than ever before.

Waitlist: In theory Admissions could fill the class without accepting anyone at all from the ED and regular admissions pool. Just take everyone from the waitlist. Though we did not use the waitlist at all last year, we have taken an increasing number of students from it over the last decade -- at times more than anyone else in the Ivies.

Addendum: And then there's the Tufts Syndrome, where a school intentionally does not admit candidates who it knows will appeal to stronger, more desirable colleges. Why admit kids to Dartmouth who will go to HYP -- and hurt our selectivity figures? I'll bet that Admissions is using this strategy on occasion.

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End Grade Inequality

Apr 1 2015

The inequality in grades at Dartmouth is almost as big a problem as income inequality in our nation. While several students now graduate with extravagant 4.0 GPAs -- the hated Top 0.1% -- other worthy students have grades that can be as low as half of this figure, and students even routinely leave the College because they are unable to succeed academically. As an institution, just as we are trying to do as a nation, we cannot allow such disparities to continue.

I call upon President Hanlon to institute a school-wide program of grade re-distribution. Students who have high GPAs should have their grades "taxed" heavily, so that, for example, the Registrar can drop the A of a high-scoring student to a B+ and give the extracted 0.67 GPA points to a needy student whose GPA is not what it should be. In this way, as student who ordinarily would have received a C would now be accorded a more respectable B-.

Achieving poor grades is soul-destroying, especially for students who have poor study skills or who do not apply themselves in class. By adjusting their grades upwards, the College can not only improve their self-esteem, but such a move will improve weak students' entire experience at Dartmouth. Besides, do students who almost always achieve top grades in a class really need such a high GPA? Isn't it greedy of them to arrogate to themselves over and over again all the A's given out by professors in a course. Sharing the wealth would make them better people, and make Dartmouth a better place.

We all know that students who receive high grades don't really earn them on their own at all. High GPA's are really only a reflection of privilege in earlier education, tutoring, and the support of the community. As both President Obama and, more recently, Hilary Clinton have pointed out, businesses and their owners don't create jobs. The argument can certainly be made that Dartmouth students don't actually earn their own grades either. To hold such an idea is to falsely attribute merit to students with high grades, when in fact, all Dartmouth students are worthy of our support.

Some people may advance the distracting idea that taxing high grades in support of lower-scoring students will take away the incentive of top students to work hard. We know that this is not true. Grinds will always grind away; this is their nature, and society as a whole, and especially other students, can benefit from their diligence.

Perhaps we can take the idea of reducing grade inequality further by instituting a minimum grade in all courses. Just as many communities are moving to a minimum wage of $15/hour, the College should make C the lowest grade for any student who signs up for a course.

I hope that people remember this first day of April as the one on which Dartblog announced its most important idea.

Addendum: I am not the only person to celebrate the day:

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More Mush From Phil

Mar 31 2015

Is Phil seeking to inspire the campus with this springtime e-mail entitled, "Turning the Page"?

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If so, I don't think that he has succeeded.

Addendum: Phil begins his sixth paragraph with this statement:

Indeed, earlier this month I spoke with the assembled faculty in the Arts and Sciences about how to more energetically make use of the academic opportunity space.

"... the academic opportunity space"??? In 1975 that kind of jargon would have earned a swift reprimand from an English 5 professor -- and I hope that it would today, too.

Addendum: A wit writes in:

To more energetically make use of the academic opportunity space ... or not to more energetically make use of the academic opportunity space? Those are the things that we might, or might not, "pursue with renewed vigor efforts to up our academic game." Hey, I'm on board! And, hey, Spring is coming!

Addendum: If I were writing, I'd say "fresh spring air" -- but if I had nothing more to say, I'd not write at all:

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The IP is all atwitter.

Addendum: A reader sends in a thorough critique of Phil's letter:

Hanlon's e-mail is disappointing for a number of reasons.

1) I count at least 10 different references to the changing seasons.

2) The two different quotes seem like crutches.

3) Repetition of stock phrases: "time to turn a page," let us welcome the turning of a page" and "efforts to up our academic game," "time to raise your game"

5) The phrase "more energetically make use of the academic opportunity space" (how can this be described as a space?)

But the section where he talks about academic rigor is by far the most troublesome portion of this letter.

First of all, while the rhetoric here suggests that the college is not currently measuring up to some standard of academic excellence, he does not establish the ways in which we're failing to meet that standard. Are we falling behind our competitors? Are we not reaching internal metrics of academic performance? In other words, how do we know, from a qualitative or quantitative perspective, that we're not doing well enough? The call to action doesn't make sense unless we're currently coming up short, and he fails to show how that's the case.

Secondly, none of these ideas are anywhere close to concrete goals. He doesn't provide us with a picture of what would it would really look like if the college were to achieve academic excellence and innovation. How would we know if the faculty is able to "think about big, bold ideas" or for students to "embrace intellectual risk" (if, again, we take him at his word that these qualities are currently lacking on campus)? It seems that he's merely dropping a bunch of buzzwords rather than articulating a vision for the institution, a map of how to get there, or how to know that we've arrived at the promised land.

Perhaps this communication is not the place for discussing more measurable shortcomings and goals for the college. Nevertheless, the lack of these aspects does not increase my confidence in his leadership or in the substance of these new initiatives.

Addendum: Another alum has a (tongue-in-cheek?) thought:

Re: Phil's letter... let's cut him some slack; it has been a very long, very cold winter.

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