Grade Reform, Law Schools

Harvard Law School Will Now Hide GPAs (Or At Least Force Employers to Buy a Calculator)

Let’s close the loop on the latest changes to the Harvard Law School grading system. Last month, we reported on stealth grade reform at HLS. The school decided to attach numerical values to all of its grades — and place students numerical GPAs on their transcripts.

That was a big deal because Harvard made a big show of moving away from letter grading just last year. What’s the point of having no letter grades if your GPA can still be easily reduced to a four point scale?

Well, there is no point. And the latest changes confirm that the school’s experiment with no letter grades was just a useless and annoying show. The most recent changes will remove the GPA calculation from the students’ transcripts — but most employers should still be able to figure it out, provided they understand basic math…

The Harvard Crimson reports on the big concession from the HLS administration regarding grades:

In response to student concern about a recent grading policy change that assigned points to the pass-fail system, the Harvard Law School administration has decided to remove point values from transcripts, according to the Law School’s student government.

The decision—the latest in a series of tweaks to the grading policy since this summer—was met with approval from student government representatives who praised the Law School administration’s receptiveness to issues raised over the past few weeks.

“This is a school where people are taking students’ concerns seriously,” said Harvard Law School Student Government President Jennifer D. Dein.

I’m sorry, did I miss something? How is this a victory? Do members of the HLS student government think that employers are unable to use a calculator? Or to even need a calculator, to add up one year’s worth of grades and divide by the number of classes when they glance at a transcript while waiting for their next OCI appointment?

Really, it seems like HLS students didn’t fight the change back to the tyranny of a numerical grading system, they fought the ease with which an employer will be able to access that information:

“If the numbers are primarily for the school to determine Latin Honors, there does not seem to be a reason for the employers to have the information at their fingertips,” the student government wrote to Minow.

Okay, so now the numbers won’t be “at their fingertips.” Instead, look at all the work an employer will have to do to find out the GPA of a Harvard Law student:

Step 1: Google: “harvard law school grades”
Step 2: Click on the Above the Law story about grade reform (currently the third Google hit).
Step 3: Click on the link that leads you to the numerical point value for each grade (I just updated the post, the internet is crazy fast like that).
Step 4: Apply numerical values to the HLS transcript in front of you.
Step 5: Calculate.

Ha ha. The entire process could take an employer almost two minutes to complete.  They’ll never know what an HLS GPA is now! Great work, HLS student government.

Maybe the GPA information is no longer at employers’ “fingertips,” but it is certainly in their grabbable area.

So just admit it, HLS, you are back to a cutthroat, curved, point-driven system for grades. Don’t be ashamed of it. You’ve been that way for as long as anybody can remember. Just admit that being a kinder, gentler sort of place really didn’t sit well with the faculty and the new dean. It’s okay, people will still go to your law school, and people will still happily sign up for three years of intra-school sabotage and your brand of aggressive interrogation techniques.

Just don’t act like you are Yale and a place where grades don’t matter. You’re not Yale — you’re Harvard, you’re a competitive mutherf***er. Own it. You’ll still get students to matriculate. It’s like auto-erotic asphyxiation: some people really get off when people try to choke them to death.

HLS Tweaks Grading Policy [Harvard Crimson]

Earlier: Harvard Law School to Stealth Grade Reform
Harvard Law School Grade Reform Update

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