Any person.
Any study.
Any Cornelliana.

An alumni
blog about Ezra's
University. (more)


Suggestions? Tips?




[+] Cornell News

[+] Higher Ed News

[+] Campus Pubs

[+] Alumni Interest

[+] Diversions

[+] Blogs

[+] Sports

[+] Other Places


[+] By Month

[+] By Author

Of Median Grades and Economics Minors

Life has been busy lately, and as such I've been negligent in commenting on some pretty weighty subjects like the proposed New York City tech campus and Skorton's call to end pledging in the Greek system (hint: I'm still not a supporter of the Greek system), but I did want to quickly comment on two recent issues that have percolated up in The Sun.

The first is whether or not median grades should be published on student transcript. Writes the Sun:

[The Faculty Senate's] refusal, however, to remove median grades from transcripts shows that faculty remain committed to the idea that median grades can provide a more complete picture of a student’s academic performance.

Yet, here again, the policy falls short. Posting raw median grades alone on transcripts poses more potential confusion for would-be employers and graduate schools than potential good. Students who consistently challenge themselves with more difficult courses, but underperform the median should not be classified as below average academically based solely on a raw median grade.

The Sun's editorial is correct in asserting that posting median grades won't ease all of the pitfalls of assessing student performance by a transcript, and some sort of GPA that normalizes for the difficulty of classes should certainly be calculated. But median graduates on transcripts certainly won't hurt. Both employers and graduate schools will have more information when comparing Cornell student performance to students at other schools with more grade inflation. And students will have more incentive to work and study hard to actually learn the material, which will help them down the road in their job interviews and graduate study.

Some students will surely argue that posting median grades on transcripts will only make Cornell more competitive, but that's a red herring: what makes Cornell 'competitive' are the students, not the professors or grading, and if every student did well on their academics professors wouldn't think twice about giving everybody good grades. Curves really only help students. I'll always remember one of my rigorous econometric courses from senior year where the median grade had traditionally been a B, but the class did so well that semester that the median grade ended up being an A-minus. So it's really just another case of students doth protesting too much.

Speaking of econometrics, there's more news coming out about the new integrated economics department, which I previously wrote about in July. Writes the Sun:

As the year continues, many of the changes may become more noticeable, Easley said. One of the first changes is that courses will no longer be crosslisted, but will now be listed primarily under economics. For example, labor economics, listed as an ILR class, will be listed as an economics class.

“In practice, undergraduate courses are still listed as economics courses in Arts and Sciences and as economics courses in ILR. But they’re being taught now by members of the economics department, and so at some point — we hope soon — we’ll integrate this and make it easier for students to see what we’re doing,” Easley said.

Senior Vice Provost Ronald Seeber said the integrated department will help with recruiting faculty and students, and improving the quality of the department.

“We believe we should have a top-10 economics department,” Seeber said. “When faculty think about where they want to work as a brand new Ph.D., you do that on the basis of what’s the reputation of the university and, even more importantly, what’s the reputation of the department. The better we are perceived, the better students we’ll attract, the better faculty we’ll attract — it’s a spiral upward.”

One goal for the new economics department should be the creation of an economics concentration/minor that would be open to students from any of the seven undergraduate colleges. I'm thinking of a five or six course requirement comprised of intermediate mico and macro, econometrics, and two to three upper-level courses including one that incorporates empirical research/data analysis into the curriculum.

This will not only help to integrate economic-thinking across the disciplines in all of the colleges, and encourage the cross-pollination of ideas, but also boost Cornell's visibility when it comes to recruiting students. Employers can often be confused by the differences between the undergraduate colleges, but an economics minor would allow for a level basis upon which Cornell students could present themselves. When I was in the ILR School I was able to complete a formal economics concentration, but I believe they eliminated that option soon after I graduated.

Late Update: I'm now told that the ILR school still offers a formal concentration in economics, but neither the ILR or Economics departments websites mention this opportunity.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on September 24, 2011 (#)

blog comments powered by Disqus

Other Recent Posts

-- WSJ: Cornell Wins NYC Tech Campus Bid (EBilmes)

-- Barrier Update: City Approves Nets (DJost)

-- Big Red Cymbal Guy (Nagowski)

-- New York Times Survey on Campus Recruiting is Flawed (KScott)

-- Barrier Update: Legal precedent suggests City of Ithaca will not be held liable for gorge suicide (DJost)

-- Despite MSG Loss, Big Potential for Big Red Hockey (EBilmes)

-- City Council Will Vote on Suicide Nets (DJost)

-- An Encounter on the Upper East Side (Nagowski)

-- Showing Off Your School Spirit (Nagowski)

-- Chipotle Ithaca? (KScott)

-- Cornell at the ING NYC Marathon (KScott)

-- Crossing Over a Fine Line: Commercial Activity on Campus (KScott)

-- Milstein's Downfall (Nagowski)

-- Can any Cornell-associated organization really be independent of the University? (Nagowski)

-- Slope Media Revisited (EBilmes)

-- Slope Media Group Approved for Byline Funding (KScott)

-- Occupy AEM? (KScott)

-- New campus pub to be good for both Greeks and non-Greeks (Nagowski)

-- Gagging the Election (Nagowski)

-- The Changing Structure of Rush Week (Nagowski)

-- Ivy League Humility in the Midwest (EBilmes)

-- Of Median Grades and Economics Minors (Nagowski)

-- Homecoming Recap (Nagowski)

-- My Cornell Bookshelf (Nagowski)

-- The Sun's Opinion Section Has Suddenly Gotten Good (Nagowski)

-- Remembering the 11th (Nagowski)

-- Cornellian Tapped as Top Economic Advisor (Nagowski)

-- Cutting Pledging, and the Good Which Comes With It (EBilmes)

-- Why Cornell Should Not Close Fall Creek Gorge (Nagowski)

-- Welcome to the Class of 2015 (Nagowski)