20 February 2007

more yale news

apparently i miss, um, whassit called...'home'? for the second time in as many days i refer my readers (all three of you must be thrilled) to some smokin' hot internal yale politics. in particular, the ill-considered A-F grading change dropped on the grad school assembly's plate last fall has been formally done away with, despite the strong impression i got from the GSA executive committee that the thing was a foregone conclusion.

the grade change was one of a number of proposed shifts that were, if not outright insulting to grad students, at least seriously flawed from a policy perspective. true that a certain amount of competition is a good thing; true that the current grading system is mostly meaningless; true that better faculty mentoring/feedback is key to graduate student success. not true that yale grad students are so lackadaisical that they need more basis for comparison. not true that offering more grade levels would eliminate the "default H" (or "default HP" depending on the department and professor). not true that having lots of possible letters is equal to "better feedback." on the contrary, i think this is one of those changes that comes about because it's easier to impose rules on students than to cause the faculty to change its pattern of behavior.

no one was ever able to show me any data at all, convincing or otherwise, that suggested this policy change would have the effect that was ostensibly intended, and i'm glad the faculty followed grad student opinion and voted it down.

the grade change controversy reminds me fairly strongly of the disastrous (ongoing) attempt to "overhaul" years two through four of the Ph.D. program at yale: the gradutate school (personified by dean butler) appears to believe that the key to job market success is short time to degree and that the key to short time to degree is having lots and lots of rules. again, no one has provided any empirics to suggest that rules (without attendant benefits) actually lead to shorter TTD, or that shorter TTD has a strong positive effect on job placement. but of course (again), it's easier to tell grad students what to do than to demand that faculty mentor appropriately or to make positive changes in the academic job market.

also, i gotta say -- never thought i'd see the day when i lobbied for maintaining a meaningless grading system.