Two Google tabs remained open as I decided classes for pre-enroll last semester: the class roster and ratemyprofessors.com. At times, a class’s number of credits or time slot can take the backseat to a detailed professor review. For those unfamiliar with the site, the typical instructor profile almost always features several near-perfect reviews towards the top. Naturally, you’ll ask yourself how these professors are receiving overall ratings of 3.5/5. The answer lies a few scrolls below, buried in the pop-up ads.
It’s the end of the semester. You’ve completed your last final, submitted your last paper, and given your last presentation. There’s nothing left to do but wait for the grades to filter in. But as professors demand accountability and thoroughness in your final work, they fail to deliver the same on their end. For a large number of classes offered at Cornell, final exam, project, or presentation grades are simply never inputted for the student to see.
First day of freshman year, I’m a little late to my first Chemistry class. I end up packed into the balcony seats of Baker 200. Our professor is introducing office hours, study resources and the help classes we could enroll in for the semester. He introduces the professor for the supplemental class. The supplement class professor tells us to introduce ourselves to our neighbors, shake hands, get to know them a little bit.
On today’s morning walk to stay sane, I strolled through campus from Collegetown, looping through the slope up to North and back down again. With a camera in hand, I snapped some of the first pictures I’ve ever taken of the slope completely empty. As I passed through the eerie silence of central campus I heard songbirds singing — a first in my nearly three years here. I realized that some of the engineering buildings hum like living things, betraying the immense amount of energy flowing through them. I realized that this probably wasn’t the first time the slope had been empty, or campus was quiet enough to hear the songbirds — I had always been too caught up in my busy life here to take a moment to notice them.
Cornell students have been fighting the wrong battle. Although the current conflicting discourse on opt-in and mandatory S/U grading exists between students, the actual negotiation that must occur should be between students and the University administration. Before we talk about alternative grading policies, we need to ask ourselves: what is a grade and what is its impact? Transcript grades represent a student’s understanding of their subject material with relation to their peers. At the same time, a grade bears the underlying assumption that all students in that class are given standardized learning resources and conditions.
This is a change from last year, when the college offered placement on the Dean’s List based on a multi-tiered credit system, according to Duncan Bill, Director of Administration and College Registrar of Arts and Sciences.
I think I speak for everyone when I say I love failing prelims. A feeling quite like euphoria sweeps over me when I log on to CMS (or Blackboard, or a department’s surprisingly unaesthetic student portal) and see that 63 percent, after the curve. Have I, at long last, done something right? I proceed to peek at the accompanying histogram of scores: the mean is an 84 percent, and, oh, the median is an 89 percent. Nice — I like what I see. It’s not crowded over here in the 60s — I have plenty of room to stretch my legs, the service is great and people don’t flock to me for any sort of guidance.