The Faculty Senate voted in May to cease the online posting of median grade reports for Cornell courses, leaving students without the controversial resource that had helped them choose classes since 1998.
Median grade reports from past years have been taken down from the Office of the University Registrar website and no report was released for spring 2011 classes. While the Faculty Senate voted to no longer post the median grade reports online, median grades will continue to be published on students’ transcripts.
Prof. Charles McCormick, nutritional science, presented the resolution on behalf of the senate’s Educational Policy Committee. The resolution said that the publishing of median grades for all courses is “used by students to select courses that give high grades,” noting that the practice has contributed to grade inflation.
McCormick said his resolution was backed by the research of Prof. Talia Bar, marketing and economics, and Prof. Vrinda Kadiyali, marketing. Their paper, “Grade Information and Grade Inflation: The Cornell Experiment,” was published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. It stated that “the provision of grade information online induced students to select leniently-graded courses — or in other words, to opt out of courses they would have selected absent considerations of grades.”
The Faculty Senate decided to separate the issues of median grades online and median grades on transcripts.
“The part of the resolution regarding the removal of the median grades from the transcripts is a lot more difficult of an issue, as far as I can tell,” McCormick said. “The median grade posting was an easier issue to deal with because there was some research done by professors here at Cornell that supported what we had to say.”
The Faculty Senate’s decision incited mixed response from the Cornell student body.
“I think having the median grade reports available to students was definitely a better option,” Taylor Bicchieri ’14 said. “You were able to see what you were getting yourself into with a class before you actually signed up. Now students are being deprived of really important information while employers and graduate schools can see what we can’t.”
Robert Levokove ’13 supported the Faculty Senate’s intention, saying that the posting of median grade reports served as an informal grade inflator for students who consciously chose classes with higher median grades. He added that median grades should additionally be omitted from transcripts.
“I saw people taking classes that they knew they were going to do well in and not challenging themselves because of that,” Levokove said. “But if employers and graduate schools get to see this information, we as the tuition payers should have the same access.”
Jessica Borenstein ’14 echoed Levokove’s sentiment.
“I think that people relied too heavily on the median grade reports, and they deterred people from classes that were really good but were not that easy,” Borenstein said. “I don’t mind that that they are not showing us the median grades, but I just think the policy is a little hypocritical. I don’t like how there is a difference between what we see and what others can see on our transcripts.”
Oren Jaspan ’13 said he understood the reasoning behind the Faculty Senate’s decision but disagreed with it nonetheless.
“The school is basically withholding information from us,” he said. “I feel like that sort of information should be available to students.”