Quick Takes: Princeton Tames Grade Inflation, Stanford May Grow Enrollment, $407M in Kind for Wayne State, Helping a Donor Kill Endangered Animals, Stem Cell Policy, Farewell to Twin Beds, Calendar Reform in Japan

September 19, 2007
  • Princeton University has announced success in its campaign against grade inflation. In 2004, the university announced guidelines designed to limit the percentage of A grades, based on the belief that there were far too many being awarded. Data released this week by the university found that in 2004-7, A grades (A+, A, A-) accounted for 40.6 percent of grades in undergraduate courses, down from 47.0 percent in 2001-4. In humanities departments, A's accounted for 45.9 percent of the grades in undergraduate courses in 2004-7, down from 55.5 percent in 2001-4. In the social sciences, there were 37.6 percent A grades in 2004-7, down from 43.3 percent in the previous three years. In the natural sciences, there were 35.7 percent A grades in 2004-7, compared to 37.2 percent in 2001-4. In engineering, the figures were 42.1 percent A's in 2004-7, down from 50.2 percent in the previous three years.
  • Yale University is talking about increasing undergraduate enrollment and Princeton University has undertaken growth. Now Stanford University is talking about it. In a letter in the alumni magazine, President John Hennessy said it was time to start a conversation about possible growth. He noted the huge increase in applications in recent years, and the concern that many top students were not being admitted. While also noting the potential concerns about growth and the importance of maintaining quality, Hennessy said: "I believe expanding the size of the undergraduate population would be both a practical and principled response to current realities. It would create more opportunities for gifted students to attend Stanford and it would avail Stanford of some of the best and brightest minds in the country. As I said earlier, however, this is the beginning of a conversation -- a conversation that must engage all Stanford stakeholders, present and future."
  • Wayne State University on Tuesday announced that five companies are giving it hardware and software worth $407 million -- the largest in kind contribution in the university's history -- for engineering programs.
  • The president of Sacramento State University, Alexander Gonzalez, wrote to his campus Tuesday night to express regret for having helped potential donors to a natural history museum at the university obtain permission to hunt some rare animals in Tanzinia, including three at risk of extinction, The Sacramento Bee reported. The plans for the museum were subsequently abandoned. Gonzalez wrote to the campus after the Bee reported about his letter writing to get special hunting permission approved for the would-be donors.
  • The National Institutes of Health has announced plans to carry out President Bush's executive order calling for the agency to find new stem cell lines for research without destroying or discarding human embryos. While scientists have generally welcomed efforts to expand the limited stem cell lines that meet the Bush administration's guidelines for federal research support, most have said that the new executive order does not go far enough and will continue to limit vital research.
  • The challenges posed to students by having to sleep in twin beds are well known to many dormitory residents, but more colleges are abandoning the twin for double beds, The Washington Post reported. Campus officials cited student comfort, the reality that today's students may have grown up sleeping in doubles or queens, competition from off-campus apartments, the increased size of students and -- as one one official told the newspaper delicately -- the fact that "sometimes they are not in the bed alone."
  • Japan's government is planning changes in education law to allow universities to begin their academic year in September, rather than April, the current start time at most institutions, The Yomiuri Shimbum reported. The idea behind the change is to make it easier for American or European students or faculty members to study or work at Japanese universities, and to make it easier for Japanese students to study abroad.
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