I Work Hard for the Same Grade That Everybody Else Got!

After reading Hank Stephenson's article "Easy A's" (Currents, Feb. 12), I was deeply appalled. As a senior majoring in music and mathematics at the UA, I can tell you that I work my ass for the grades I receive.

It is also worth noting that music students are required to play in ensembles offered as one-credit courses: You show up; you practice; you play the gig; you get an A. Are they going to measure your artistic ability? In four years, close to 50 percent of my grades came from these one-credit classes that average six to 10 hours a week. You do the math. Too many A's? I think not.

Don't make it seem like everyone who gets an A doesn't deserve one. Next time, consider students' grade-point average, not the B.S. stats you get out of the Freedom of Information Act. This article would fail any class offered at the UA.

Jonathan Cain

Good Grades Can Lead to Cold, Hard Cash

One very important fact not mentioned in "Easy A's" is that grants and funding are often based on grades. If grants and funding could be disconnected from grades, perhaps there would be an incentive to grade on a more realistic scale.

Chantal Kendrick

One Example of a UA Department Taking on Grade Inflation

Hank Stephenson makes some excellent points concerning grade inflation at universities in general, and at the UA in particular. Inflated grades send inaccurate information to students about their abilities and provide less useful information to potential employers and graduate schools. Grade inflation also penalizes truly dedicated and talented students by failing to recognize superior performance: If everybody gets an A, then it no longer serves to demarcate a special accomplishment.

For these reasons, and many others, the Communication Department at the UA implemented a set of department grading guidelines approximately three years ago. These guidelines provide all instructors with a set of "best practices" concerning grading, and offer them with exemplar grade distributions. Internal discussions occur with instructors whose grade distributions demonstrate dramatic levels of inflation (or indeed deflation, which is rare), and we attempt to work with those instructors to adjust the criteria on which students are graded.

The results of our policy have been noticeable. During fall and spring 2008, for instance, grades in our undergraduate courses were 56 percent A's and B's, and 44 percent C's, D's and E's. The highest grade (A) was given only 17 percent of the time.

Our guidelines respect academic freedom: There are no quotas, and instructors retain control over their grade distributions. However, simply by sharing information and reaching an agreement to reduce grade inflation, the department has made significant progress.

Jake Harwood, Professor and undergraduate director, UA Department of Communication

And Now Some Thoughts on Music, Youth and Principles

I recently went to Club Congress to check out a free show by two excellent local bands--I Am the Lion and The Wolves (Soundbites, Jan. 22)--and I was struck by something: the tyrannical presence of extremely crazy time signatures.

I don't think there was one song that stayed in 4/4. The bands presented themselves as sort of indie/punk, but I'll be damned if there wasn't a discernible jazz influence, a fusion-y virtuosity that would have been tough to get past hipsters in the pre-Radiohead days. It reminded me of when country influences started popping up in '80s punk-rock bands, like they got together around a 12-pack of Old Milwaukee and said, "Now that our once-irreverent style is getting so much mainstream acceptance, what's the most offensive genre we can embrace to say 'f*ck you' to the sheep?"

When I was a high school student in the '80s, being identified as a Mainstream Sympathizer carried the fixed social penalties. My buddy Dave and I would sneak over to his house during lunch, spin "Safety Dance" or "99 Luftballons," then return to the school parking lot cranking Motorhead's No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith.

Teenage credibility often demands an unwavering refusal to betray the principles of your chosen cultural representative (in our case, Lemmy), and it's ironic how authenticity is so critical at just the age when people are perhaps their least authentic. It's so much easier when you're a little kid, and you can have a high-level freak-out over anything you want, no shame. Or when you're in your 20s and among friends who are less likely to scandalize you to keep the focus away from their own idiosyncrasies.

But that anti-sellout mentality, whether it's genuine or not, is a vital part of the engine that encourages new generations to destroy and create, to tear down and mash up, to find those shocking hybrids.

I thought about this on Totalitarian Math-Rock Wednesday. I stood there appreciating the magnificent irreverence, the oppressively complicated time signatures, and the equally complicated haircuts--all the things that had been passed down to those young lions. After the show, I dropped my drunk pal off at his house and drove home listening to my favorite crassly commercial pop station like the poseur I am, a byproduct of another razed generation.

Adrian Smith

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