The Grade Deflation Fantasy

| January 7, 2014 | 2 Comments

Working hard. Probably.
photo credit: Pragmagraphr via photopin cc

Generally, I think the people who enroll at Boston University are a well-adjusted bunch. They do a lot of good work in the community. They care about the world. They know how to handle themselves in a snowstorm. You know, all of the important things.

But there’s one major flaw I see in many Terriers. It’s an obsession that infects the student body, from first-semester freshmen to second-semester seniors. And while flair-ups spike around the end of a semester, it’s always there, eating away at the common sense part of the brain. The parasite is belief in grade deflation, a policy that BU is notorious for, and a policy that also happens to not be real.

Yes, you read that correctly. There is no such thing as grade deflation at Boston University. You can look it up in BU Today, which wrote in 2007 that “there is no Boston University policy requiring a certain median grade or grade distribution.”  That same article says that the average GPA at BU was a 3.04 at the time of publication, with the majority of grades “in either the A or B range.” I’m assuming that those numbers haven’t gone down significantly  in the past few years, either, because each incoming class seems more and more impressive. (BU Today’s profile for the class of 2017, for example, started with the italicized note, “Warning: this story may be disturbing to those with inferiority issues.”)

Nobody showed up for this exam, and I’m sure somebody will annoyed they didn’t get an A. photo credit:
eflon via photopin cc

If an average GPA is around 3.0, that means that the average grade is a B, and I don’t quite see how that’s deflated. Should the average grade be a B+? Maybe an A-?  Let me ask it another way: do you honestly believe that an A is average?

Just because you got As in high school doesn’t mean you’ll get As at BU. That’s not how this is supposed to work. It doesn’t make you less intelligent or useful as a human being. It simply means that the standards are not what they used to be. The expectation here is a high quality of work. If you’re not willing to put in the effort, shut up and take the C+ that you’ve earned. Don’t expect to coast your way to a 3.8.

As this blog said once upon a time: c’mon, BU. We should be better than this. We’re the kind of people who make the world better, not complain about low-quality grades after submitting  low-quality work. So repeat after me, ladies and gentlemen: there’s no such thing as grade deflation at BU… there’s no such thing as grade deflation at BU…

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Category: Campus Culture, featured

About the Author ()

Jeff is currently a senior in SED and CAS, studying the fine arts of Science Education and Physics. Despite his outstanding good looks and charm, he's really a normal guy deep down. He enjoys cool science, a good cup of coffee, Batman, fedoras, British television, and BU hockey. He's accepted that he'll never think the knot on his tie is good enough. OK, so maybe "normal" is an exaggeration...

Comments (2)

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  1. Kate Conroy Kate Conroy says:

    It still makes me sad when my best friend going to college in Canada gets a 70 and it’s a B. The way that they grade there, I’d get straight A’s.

  2. Adam DiBattista Adam DiBattista says:

    I think it’s really great that you’ve called attention to this issue at our school. I generally agree with your conclusion that, on a large scale, we have just as much inflation or deflation as anywhere else. I am also not surprised that there is no mandate to control grade distribution. I always wonder where these websites that proclaim our horrific grade deflation get their information from. That being said, I see a local grade deflation pattern in larger classes that’s probably endemic to most academic institutions. Even if a teacher doesn’t have to give out a percentage of As, a teacher might subconsciously aim for a fairly regular distribution of grades, grading harder in the process. But, I think this is a mixture of factors including class size, presence of tfs, and number of assignments. Furthermore, I could see how many of the popular majors at BU that have larger class sizes would feel preferentially targeted by this effect. All of this results in the idea of grade deflation as a rampant problem. In reality it seems as though it’s a very small pattern that only affects certain classes and doesn’t put a dent in average gpa.

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