Monday, June 23, 2008
Story here. I visited at Yale in 98-99, and it was clear then that there were just two real grades: Honors and Pass. I did, however, give a Low Pass, and I also failed a student who plagiarized, but this clearly made the administration nervous. (Me: "I assume you will back me up in failing the student for plagiarism." Associate Dean: "Well, umm, this is a delicate situation.") But this was plainly bad grading behavior on my part. The no-grade system had one unfortunate consequence: it meant about a third of the students were "checked out" intellectually from law school, since once they were admitted to YLS, nothing really mattered, since there were, de facto, only two grades, "honors" and "pass," and it took real perverse effort (e.g., plagiarizing) not to pass. On the other hand, this was easily offset by the intellectually intense majority at the law school, who were always eager to engage. Stanford recruits an outstanding student body, but it is, like every other law school in the U.S., less selective than Yale, so there is a real question what the effect of essentially eliminating grades will be there. Time will no doubt tell whether this was a sound experiment or not.