Public Dean’s List Is Public: Discuss?

Last week, controversy spilled onto the ACB regarding the publicizing of each class’s Dean’s List (read: GPA of at least 93.35 with at least 3.00 graded credits) on its respective class blog. For some, the decision to make public this information—a first—constitutes a violation of academic privacy, or an affront to Wesleyan’s proclaimed emphasis on learning over grades, or just generally “a high school thing to do.” A few anonymous ACB-ers weigh in:

  • “i can’t actually believe that the names were posted online. yes, my name is on the list for my class, but i don’t like the sense of competition and knowing who has what GPA that it gives.”
  • “Releasing the list of names feels like a high school thing to do. One of the nice parts of Wesleyan is the laid back atmosphere. Turning it into an open competition is a stupid idea. Everyone should just ignore it.”
  • “I’m on another year’s list…wish this wasn’t online. So pointless.”
  • “i don’t like it. makes me feel uncomfortable to have other people know my gpa, even though it is pretty good. so glad no one posted my year’s list on the acb. this is such competition-encouraging, ego-boosting bullshit.”

Word. Yesterday’s Argus brings more thoughts on the public Dean’s List: a Wespeak (and petition) from Rachel Pincus ’13, who calls the decision “inimical to Wesleyan’s values of collaboration, community, and learning for learning’s sake”:

Knowing that small, private liberal arts colleges are frequently accused of grade inflation, it’s hard to see why Wesleyan would want to drive up the average GPA by encouraging students to compete more lustily – or take easier classes. (Not to mention that sophomore CSS majors don’t get letter grades at all, and can therefore never be recognized on this list – whatever happened to the praiseworthy trend toward narrative evaluations?) It seems inimical to Wesleyan’s values of collaboration, community, and learning for learning’s sake to force the quantitative discussion of individual students’ grades into the open. Let us appreciate our education on our own, individual terms, not necessarily as a means of approval from some outside party. Most of us have seen enough of that competitive, grade-grubbing attitude back in high school.

What say you? To what extent does publishing students’ names in this context institutionalize high school-style grade-grubbing competition? Should congratulatory academic notices of this sort remain confined to the private realm? It’s worth discussing, and I’m curious for more perspective; hit up the comments if you’re inclined.

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18 thoughts on “Public Dean’s List Is Public: Discuss?

  1. Pingback: » Blog Archive » college acb wiki – Public Dean's List Is Public: Discuss? – Wesleying

  2. A-

    Wondering about the FERPA implications of revealing grade information from official records about students.

  3. ANONO

    seriously, who cares? if you don’t want wesleyan to be competitive, don’t get competitive. the people who care about the dean’s list ALREADY are competitive. they won’t change. if competitiveness bothers you, then ignore the existence of the dean’s list.

  4. anon

    I absolutely hate this. There is no reason that this needs to be posted; a letter in the mail or just a high GPA itself can serve the same purpose without bringing others into it. I have not met a single person whose motivations will change because their accomplishments are available to others. I hope that most people here feel the same. Please stop posting the list!

  5. ANON

    Not a big deal, plenty of schools post dean’s lists. I just think it is pretty irrelevant because nobody takes the same schedule. Yes a hard worker is a hard worker, but your GPA is partially dependent on which classes you take.

  6. mike g

    This is great. Now I have a way to judge my friends who wouldn’t tell me their SAT scores freshman year.

  7. Anon

    A privacy issue that I don’t feel has been brought up yet:
    If your parents call and ask for information on your grades, they cannot legally be given it. Posting a list of all students above or below a certain arbitrary GPA threshold will allow parents (or others) that the student does not want to find out information about their performance to obtain some information about it anyway.

  8. Anon

    All intelligent arguments aside, doesn’t this just give some of you an icky feeling inside? I came to Wes because I wanted to be in a cooperative learning environment, where friends and classmates wouldn’t ask for my grade unless I wanted to tell them and so that we could all work together toward the same goal of learning. I don’t necessarily have a huge issue with the published Dean’s list, but it does make me feel a little icky, for lack of a better term. Maybe that’s because I’m not on the list, and maybe that feeling is just jealousy (though I really don’t think it is). The bottom line is that I work really hard and I don’t want to compare my accomplishments with those of my classmates. They are inherently different. Every student has his/her own individual set of experiences and activities that will inevitably affect his/her grades. I never cared whether or not I was on the Dean’s list, because it was never before shoved in my face like it was this semester. That doesn’t mean I didn’t work hard to have the best grades I could. So, what is the point of publishing the list? What will it do besides give us an icky feeling if we’re not on it and an unnecessarily increased ego if we are? It just doesn’t sit well with me, and makes me feel like I’m losing part of the main aspect of Wesleyan that attracted me to this school in the first place.

  9. Jon galt

    Take some responsibility for yourself. This only encourages competition if you get competitive over it. Some students take pride in their work and grades are reflective over their passion for studies rather than their drive to get good grades. If you truly are part of the laid-back Wesleyan type, then you will not get competitive over the release of the names whether you are on it or not. Yes, people should be seen as contributing more than just their academic work to the institution, but you have to admit that academic excellence is more or less on the top of the list of importance not because it improves some statistic, but because it reflects the genuine care students put into their studies. There probably are students on the list because of taking easy classes. That is just the nature of higher education. There are harder majors and easier ones. Most people do not get >3.8 by merely sitting through easy classes. It shows a baseline amount of hard work and dedication, especially when you are past freshman year. You shouldn’t feel slighted however that you do not make the list because of the difficulty of your classes. We allow celebration for every other achievement on campus, why should we not celebrate the most important achievements? Should we hide the achievements of our athletics, or how about our slam poetry, or our community service?

    As if competition is such a bad thing. If this place is at all here to prepare us to go out into the world and be effective citizens of the world, we need to be prepared for competition. You do not become a leader by being laid-back and generally ok with being average. Certainly you can get to stages of hyper-competition which are harmful, but to think we’re even approaching that is ridiculous. Being laid-back may be “cool” but that is not what any institution should hope to promote. You cannot try to drag everyone else down because you would like to be laid-back.

  10. really though

    To say that this encourages grade-lust is kind of ridiculous. The idea is to acknowledge your peers who happened to work hard and do well last semester, not to make you wish you also got a sticker, but judging by those ACB comments some kids here really are jealous, nervous about not doing well, and perhaps even mean. If you are in a program without letter grades then you made a choice to forgo this sort of recognition and shouldn’t care. There’s nothing to this beyond a few names on a list on the internet, no one got anything, don’t worry, you still matter. It is pointless, but then so what? Calm down. Not to mention it is just as lame and culturally defeating when students try to say what is and isn’t “Wesleyan” as when the admissions department does. If your goals have nothing to do with your GPA then why do you care enough about other students being on this list to write a wespeak about it? WTF? This school was competitive to get into and is often competitive to be at. I’ve met some chill people here but can hardly say Wes has a universally “laid back atmosphere.”

    It’s a totally different story if someone isn’t comfortable having their grades publicized but it just seems silly/jealous when kids who aren’t on the list complain about it. All of you who are here presumably did very well in high school in order to be accepted here. If anything, the sort of academic culture wherein kids who have gotten good grades their whole lives, even if they didn’t do it “for the grades,” still demand to be recognized equally (or equally not recognized) when they haven’t done as well as some others contributes far more to grade inflation than compiling and publishing a list of students who are supposedly at the very top of their class. Dean’s lists, PBK, and Cum Laude are not new ideas here. Roth might be steering the school in an unfortunate amherst-like direction but if the dean’s list is a symptom of that then the process began long before he took the wheel.

  11. wtf

    Posting the deans list is truly an awful idea which serves no purpose other than to foster petty gpa competition. Rachel Pincus is right on. Wesleyan should be a place where we learn for learnings sake. Posting the list discourages people from taking more difficult classes and puts an undue institutional value on grades. If the point of posting the list is to recognize and congratulate students who are “performing” at high levels, why can’t the students do this themselves informally. I love when my friends share their academic successes whether it be grades or just really loving a class. I think as peers we should choose to whom and when we reveal our successes. Wesleyan is in institution in which students run a lot of the show and we do a pretty damn good job of it. The administration shouldn’t be forcing us to “congratulate” high performing students who may very well not have wanted their gpa shared with the masses

  12. carmelo anthony

    I love the conceit that Wesleyan is a laid-back place where people learn for learning’s sake instead of for grades. It’s almost as if people don’t go parading around bragging about how little sleep they get and pounding down adderall.

  13. Ayn Rand

    Haven’t you read Wesleyan 2020? If we’re going to become just as good as Williams or Amherst in just 9 years, we’ve got a lot of catch up work. This Dean’s List barely starts on the path.

    1. Anonymous

      It is not U.S. World and News Report’s job to define what Wesleyan is. It is OUR job to define how good we are, regardless of what barriers we may face, with the endowment and otherwise.

      The primary problem I have with this advent?

      Ask yourself this:
      “Under what circumstances would this list mean anything?”

      My proposed answer:
      “In a core curriculum”


      Because then people can TRULY be compared because they go through the exact same classes. High school fosters this environment.

      The Dean’s List meaning is almost nil when the amount of factors that enter the Grade Point Average are determined. Anything that promotes the notion of one number as a sole factor of intelligence will be harmful, especially when we are trying to foster excellence of many things. This does not help productivity, this will only empower some, as opposed to empowering everyone.

      Will people be motivated by means of this public knowledge to the game the system for honor?

      Will easier classes become more popular and the harder majors become threatened?

      Will this contribute to grade inflation?

      Is the entire open curriculum being besieged by a system primarily used and useful in core curriculum environments?

      Sacrificing many values of openness so that the sun of good reputation will rise for Wesleyan. Now am I ever thankful for my good memory.

      The Kallipolis I knew here once is losing its beauty.

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