The state of knowledge at UM when grades inflate

Where does knowledge stand at UM? It is our central preoccupation here and we should desire it with a passion and guard its pursuit to any ends. We pay for it and so expect it as is the duty of any institution of higher learning.

This basic right has proven to not always be the case at Miami and it may be that our administration is starting to be sold on some less pure ideals. I am a senior at this school and I offer here not just unfounded opinion but the facts of specific cases from which the truth shall burn forth. Grade inflation has been found at UM.

How did we get here? We’ll start simple: The GPA, the total worth of your assessed intelligence in one easy number, 1.0-4.0. Its purpose is understood, to rank our progress and as problematic as assigning a number to one’s knowledge is, the system is the best we have-when that system is not manipulated.

I present Chemistry 111, 112 and 201 as case studies-courses which 988 students currently attend, not including honors sections. These classes offered grade scales designed to help students pass, but this scale has gotten out of control and taken on the likes of grade inflation. The most dramatic scale occurs in Chem 201 where a 70 now constitutes an A, a 60 a B and so on down the line. This is obscene. Since when are professors allowed to get away with only letting us understand 70% of the material at best?

Is the other 30% of Organic Chemistry useless? Somehow I doubt this and can only feel as though my pursuit of knowledge has taken a back seat to passing students with higher GPAs.

Has this been done for our sake? Do not fool yourself, my fellow seekers of truth. The more of us who pass with higher GPAs means better statistics for the school to attract more students. It is bragging in the form of business. Some of you, who wallow in mediocrity and are short on character, revel in the idea of earning an A while cutting corners. You will look on this essay with contempt, for it may make things a bit harder for you or rather make you do what should be expected of a student. I dare you to write a rebuttal to me and show your true character!

But for the rest of us, the proud students, aware and eager, knowledge is our gas, our purpose here. The fact that the administration is allowing students to walk out of courses with only a 70% understanding is unacceptable to us.

What can be done to restore order to UM’s Chem department?

Adjusting the scale so that 90% is an A certainly will only serve to fail just about every student out of school! We are in the position we are in because professors took the easy route of increasing the scale instead of addressing the real problems with their courses. We don’t understand you!

I offer several ideas to improve the current situation. One: Assess the course material; maybe it was too much or not taught in the best order for students to build on. Two: Take a hard look at the method of teaching done here, and try something different (with a bit of energy, please). We might respond to alternate means of presenting material or styles of teaching, or dare I say grading. Three: take a look at your faculty. Sure they know what a Kreb cycle is, but can they teach it effectively? If not, urge them to attend education programs, get them active about teaching, and get them excited.

In conclusion I have offered examples of only several courses and I believe that they set a dangerous precedent, virtually a virus for the pursuit of knowledge.

To my fellow students: take a hard look at your own courses; maybe the seed of inflation has been planted there as well. To end, I give a call to our administration: read OUR mission statement, take a hard look, and dust it off and make it shine again.

Ryan Driscoll is a senior majoring in environmental science.

September 17, 2002


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.