~ Archive for Grade change ~

Your Student Government At Work

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A quick look at our recent accomplishments:

  • Student Government Pub Nights: very popular weekly happy hours for students, with free beer and wine (starting this year on Thursday, Oct. 1!)
  • Faculty-Student Lunch Program: every year, we arrange for students to have free lunches with distinguished HLS professors.
  • Organize and distribute Unofficial Course Evaluations each semester.
  • Solicited, collected, and presented student feedback regarding the grade change to Dean Kagan.
  • Solicited, collected, and presented student feedback regarding the switch to the Early Interview Program to Office of Career Services.
  • Formed and headed a student committee to meet with President Faust on the new dean search.
  • Changed news@law in order to allow students to plan their weeks more conveniently.
  • Convinced administration to buy toasters for the 2008-2009 free Monday morning bagel breakfasts.
  • Obtained Splenda, strawberry cream cheese, and Heinz ketchup in the Hark.
  • Worked with Restaurant Associates to respond to vegetarian students’ needs, including increased quantity of vegetarian sushi and better vegetarian labeling.
  • Increased quantity of sweat towels at the Hemenway gym.
  • Successfully advocated to see the Hark re-open from 2:30-5:00 to serve students’ needs in 2009.
  • Distributed bags filled with candy and faculty advice to the 1Ls when they received their grades.
  • Created a database of 3Ls willing to give 2Ls advice on applying to law firms.
  • Dodgeball tournament (co-sponsored with HL Central and the intramural sports).
  • Approved of many new students groups in 2008-2009.

Dean Jackson’s Grade Memo – UPDATE

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UPDATE – I know many of you have expressed concern about this memo, about either what the curve looks like or what the results will be of explicitly releasing the information.  A few of you have also asked about what the Student Government can, should, or is going to to do about it.  I wanted to let you know that I am meeting with Dean Jackson this week to share this feedback with him, and to discuss potential ways to address or alleviate the concerns that have been expressed.

It is worth noting, however, that whether it seems like it or not, it took the Administration years of debate, study, and discussion to make this grade change happen, and they are not likely to make vast changes to it without at least taking a few years to really assess its effect on the students.  Still, we will share this feedback, and what we can definitely hope for is to work with the Administration to either share some extra information or make some small changes that might help to address the concerns that have been expressed here and via your emails.

We’ll keep you updated.

Brian

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Today (4/16), Dean Jackson released a preliminary memo on the HLS grading system and determination of latin honors. What do you think? Let us know!

David

Visiting Committee Feedback

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Last week we sent out the following email seeking feedback for the Visiting Committee.  We’re still looking for more feedback.  See the email below for details.

Hello fellow students,
As you may have seen in a previous email from Catherine Claypoole, the Visiting Committee will be coming to HLS on March 5 and 6.  The Visiting Committee reports directly to the Harvard University Board of Overseers, and this yearly visit is a great way for students to share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns about the state of HLS.  If you have an opinion about what the school is doing well, what more they can do, or what you would like to see changed, these are the people to share those thoughts with.
We highly encourage you to share your thoughts about the current state of HLS with the Visiting Committee.  Representative of the Student Government will, of course, be meeting with the Visiting Committee, and we want to be sure we have as much information from you – the students – as possible to bring to that meeting.
Please email us at studentgov@law.harvard.edu with any thoughts or concerns you may have.  We will be compiling the comments anonymously and presenting the compiled document to the Visiting Committee in March.
The Committee is especially interested in hearing any thoughts you have on next year’s early interview program and early fly out week, but any other comments you have would also be welcomed.  Some other possible significant areas of interest could be the new grading system, the status of the HLS faculty under the Obama administration, the curriculum in general, any opinions about Restaurant Associates, or anything else that affects your life here at HLS.
If, for whatever reason, you don’t want the Student Government to compile your comments anonymously, you are certainly still welcome to email the Committee directly at viscom@law.harvard.edu.
This is a great chance to ensure that your voice is heard.  We hope you will take maximum advantage of it.  Please try to get your feedback to us as soon as possible so that we can include as much of it as possible in a packet being sent to the Committee on 2/24.
Thank you for your time.  We look forward to hearing from you.
Your Student Government
(Comments are disabled for this post.  If you have feedback please email it to us at  studentgov at law.harvard.edu.)
Brian

Howell Jackson’s Town Hall Meeting

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Today Howell Jackson, prospective interim acting Dean, hosted a town hall meeting with HLS students. Because some students were unable to, we wanted to fill you in on some highlights:

  • Faculty departures for DC: All courses this year were covered by HLS faculty or visitors. Next year’s curriculum will feature many great visiting professors (especially in environmental law), and there should be no significant effect from the faculty departures.
  • Curriculum in general: Along with picking classes this Spring, students will be able to fill out a poll about which courses they’d like to see offered. Some of those courses might be added by next year, but some certainly will be added by the year after.
  • OCI will be the week before school starts. Flyout week will be the week of September 14th. There may be events for 3Ls during that time, such as symposia on research opportunities or empirical methods classes. In addition, the school will celebrate Columbus Day, creating a small break later in the fall.
  • Financial crisis: HLS’s three priorities are “building a terrific faculty, having terrific teaching, and honoring financial aid commitments.” There may be cuts in other “not central” areas (but not coffee). In addition, the NW Corner project will proceed as planned. Furthermore, Harvard University is working with JP Morgan to ensure that all international students have access to loans similar to those that were suspended because of the financial crisis.
  • The search process for a permanent Dean, led by President Faust, has begun. She will likely reach out to students, staff, alumni, and even employers during the process.
  • 2L Mixed Transcripts: 2Ls will graduate with Latin honors, based on an averaging of their A/B/C and HP/P/LP grades. The algorithm for that weighting is not public, however.
  • Next year’s academic calendar has almost no time between Winter Term and Spring Term. On the other hand, synchronizing with the rest of the University allows for much better cross-registration opportunities. 
  • The “Programs of Study” are in beta-test mode now. They will become more significant in the future.
  • MyPlan will be fixed, but slowly.

David

1L Grades, Candy, and Perspective

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Today the 1L class received its first set of grades, officially marking the completion of that class’s first semester at HLS. In celebration, the Student Government handed out more than 250 bags of candy. In addition, each bag contained a letter which, among other things, listed some less-than-stellar grades which HLS’s star faculty earned in their respective first years at law school.

David

Student Government Issues Mid-Year Report

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Today we emailed our mid-year report to all HLS students (if you didn’t get one, let us know). The report outlines what we did this semester and what we plan to do next semester. But, ultimately, your Student Government exists to serve you. So let us know how you think we’re doing and what we could do better!

David

1L Exam Prep and Study Advice Panel

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The Student Government and the WLA are hosting a panel about exam preparation and study for all 1Ls on Wednesday, December 3rd, at 12:00 PM. Lunch will be served.

If there are particular questions you’d like addressed, let us know at studentgov@law.harvard.edu or just respond to this post.

We’ll also have copies of the “What You Wish You’d Known” pamphlet we’re currently putting together.

David

Grade Changes Finalized

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Dean Kagan emailed the student body today to announce the new grading policies: 1Ls will be on the HP/P/LP system, 2Ls and 3Ls will be on the A, B, C system this year, and then the entire school will be on the HP/P/LP system going forward. LLMs will be graded depending on the policy of the class which they are taking.

In her email, Dean Kagan specifically thanked the student government for all its input. Our input came from you — all the students, particularly 2Ls, who emailed us with your thoughts. We are glad we were able to convey your thoughts to Dean Kagan, and we look forward to continuing to speak for the student body in the future.

If you have any remaining questions or concerns, let us know.

David

Notes from Dean Kagan’s New Grade System Town Hall

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A summary of some of the info from Dean Kagan’s town hall meeting:

She made a point to note that she was mainly looking for feedback about if and how to apply the new system to the existing classes.  Whether or not the change will occur in the long run has been decided, and feedback on that issue was not really being sought at this meeting (it was, of course, given but she did try to steer away from that whenever possible).

The change was supported by a 100% faculty consensus in the last vote.

One of the impetuses for the change was a growing sense from the faculty that they were trying to draw too fine distinctions within the existing grading system, distinctions that “wouldn’t bear the weight that we were attaching to them.”  Moving to a grading system with fewer fine distinctions would more accurately reflect the exams the professors are seeing and enable students to focus more on learning.

Dean Kagan’s main question was what to do about the 2Ls and what their feelings were.  It seemed fairly clear that the 3Ls did not have a lot at stake in whether or not the changes applied to them because, at this point, it would not have a great effect on them.  The majority of the 1Ls supported the changes applying to them, and Dean Kagan generally agreed, saying that since this has been determined to be a pedagogically good thing it should probably apply to those that are just getting started and can get all the benefits of the new system.  She did acknowledge that over 400 1Ls have expressed agreement with that and that does play a role in her decision.  (Note, there were definite exceptions to the above positions, but they tended to focus on whether or not the new system should be implemented at all which – as I said above – wasn’t really on the table.)

The Administration did talk with employers – firms and judges – and concluded “strongly” that there would be no negative effects.

Dean Kagan would not commit to indicating clearly what the scale would look like exactly.  She said she didn’t want to say exactly what the breakdown of H’s, P’s, etc. would look like, saying that they’ve always been opaque about that type of thing due to an intent to play down any sense of comparison to other classmates.  One important note, she did indicate that there would be – just as there is now – shared norms that the professors would be expected to adhere to, especially across classes.  For example, just as each class now gives out roughly the same percentage of A, A-, B+, etc., each class would give out roughly the same percentage of H, P, LP, etc.

2Ls expressed a couple of concerns: 1) Moving to the new system may hamper the ability to demonstrate improvement on earlier grades for those students that are hoping to do so.  Dean Kagan’s response – there will still be grade distinctions, just fewer of them, so people can still demonstrate improvement. 2) If we move to the new system, will there still be some sort of honors system?  Dean Kagan’s response – that is not ironed out yet, but there will likely be some sort of named prize that professors could give out for truly exceptional exams on a very limited basis if they found an exam that warranted it.

A couple of things that aren’t on the table for various reasons: 1) Giving current students the individual option of whether or not to proceed under the old grade system or the new one – not really an option.  2) No altering of existing grades – if the new system applies to the 2L or 3Ls it will not do so retroactively.

As always, your feedback is sought and welcomed.

Questions for Dean Kagan’s Grading System Town Hall?

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As you all heard last week, HLS will be moving to some form of a pass/fail grading system beginning, at the latest, with the Class of 2012.  Dean Kagan will be holding a Town Hall meeting this Thursday, 10/2 in Austin North from 2:30 – 3:30 to discuss how or if the new grading system will apply to any of the existing students – this means you!

The Student Government will be attending this meeting and we encourage you to do so as well.  However, if you cannot, we hope you will share any thoughts or concerns you have with us.  Our goal would be to solicit as much student input as possible so that we can consolidate and share your thoughts at the meeting.  The Administration is honestly looking for your input about how this transition might be made.  We hope you will share your thoughts directly with Dean Kagan on Thursday, or contact us so we can do it for you.  This is your chance to be heard – speak up!

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