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New Grading Scheme Would Ease Stress

I must say that I am puzzled by Raajnish A. Chitaley's conclusion that a more precise grading system would produce more stress ["Faculty Should Delay Decision on New Grading System," Jan. 25, 1995 ]. A grading system allowing professors to give more accurate grades shouldn't produce more stress than one in which those on the borderline must constantly wonder if they will be placed "high" or "low."

I would rather know that if I am solidly borderline I will get a borderline grade, such as A/B, which accurately represents my work than to be placed in the B category just because I was one below the cutoff. And the grading will probably average out in the end. In one case I might have been pushed to the A level, and in another case to the B level. If in a new grading system both those grades would be A/B, and if an A/B is a 4.5, then I'd still have a 4.5 average either way. Furthermore, my transcript would show work that is "almost A level" instead of work that is solidly B level.

Chitaley says, "The fact is that we all like to compete. ... Given the opportunity to fight for that extra half grade, we will." I disagree. From what I have seen, MIT is no where near as competitive as other colleges. Many people are fighting to learn the material, not fighting to beat their next door neighbor's score. And that is why MIT students are willing to help each other.

These students would be better suited with an honest grade than with the stress of knowing that one problem set, one lab, or one bad quiz could lose them an entire grade point. The only people a new grading system would hurt are the 5.0's because they're more likely to get less than a 5.0. I hope that we will not forsake the majority of the MIT community to help the grade point averages of those few people who are borderline 5.0.

I must agree on one point that Chitaley made. The administration should have made it clear that such a system was up for consideration. This system affects more than the people who happened to receive surveys. This, and many other issues we have seen this year, show the desperate need for a way for the administration to communicate with the student body as a whole, not just a select few students.

Theresa V. Iuzzolino '95