Altschul's Arrogance Doesn't Pass Muster
I read Brett Altschul's column ["Freshman Year Policies Need Revision," May 14] with great dismay. His smug, "smarter-than-thou" arguments have been floating around MIT for years, and it saddens me to see a freshman denigrating useful policies just because he thinks he's too bright to need them.
So you're smarter than the rest of your class at MIT, and you want credit for it. That's nice. Welcome to the real world, Altschul, where you don't always get credit for the good things you do. Yes, people abuse freshman Pass/No Record, and probably abused it more back when you could pass with a D. But there were many of us who worked hard our freshman year and still couldn't cut it. This is not to say we couldn't handle MIT; we got in, and we graduated. What we couldn't handle was the transition from smooth sailing in high school to all-nighters in college. That's a big leap for most people. I'm glad that you are one of the fortunate ones able to swallow a big drink from MIT's firehose; most of us were not quite so lucky.
I'm still grateful for freshman Pass/No Record. Without it my first year GPA would have been miserable; with it I learned how to survive my classes at MIT. Lest you think Pass/No Record taught me to be a slacker, I graduated with a perfectly respectable B average.
Your argument that "better-prepared" is merely a euphemism for "more intelligent" is as specious as your argument on slacking off. Preparedness is half the battle at MIT, as at any other school: Attending recitations, taking careful notes, learning good study habits, and generally paying attention may not get you as far as Einsteinian genius, but they do make a significant difference. I knew a lot of people at MIT. All of them were intelligent, but only a handful, and I mean fewer than 20, were of a category I consider brilliant enough to never have needed pass/fail. Maybe you're in that category. But with an overly superior attitude like yours, I'm not sure I'd want to know you.
Deborah A. Levinson '91