Easy Grade Access at SLC: What It Means and How It Makes Me Feel

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I recently realized I can access my “Online Transcript With Grades” with one click on mySLC. I, as a conscientious student among many other conscientious students, feel perplexed. Never before have I looked at my grades—I even sent out a transcript when applying to study abroad without looking at it—because they aren’t supposed to matter in the context of our greater learning at Sarah Lawrence. Right?

As a sophomore, I feel as though I’ve been conditioned to create autonomy for myself outside of the context of grades. That I am the master of my own academic destiny and what matters, really, are the personal connections that I create between my professors and myself. As long as I invest myself fully in the intellectual endeavors I pursue for myself, as long as I do the reading and complete the assignments, as long as I feel good about my understanding of the class, then don’t I fulfill my Sarah Lawrence requirement? Don’t we, at 1 Mead Way, exist in a strange world that stays just outside of everyone else’s collegiate requirements?

If we are, indeed, moving toward a more traditional way of perceiving and understanding grades—the administration now accepts SAT scores, qualifying us to be ranked nationally, excluding us from imagined lists like “The Top 10 Strangest Schools in America,” and “The 6 Best Colleges to Start a Chicken Farm In”—then the current student body should be adequately prepared. If we, in some capacity, have to un-learn our dismissal of letter grades and their implications, the school should equip us with some sort of explanation. Sarah Lawrence students are simply not ready to accept this new importance placed on traditional academic standards.

If grades are now so readily available, we should be re-taught how to go about getting a ‘good mark.’ I have no idea how to begin achieving an ‘A’ in my classes because, in most cases, there is no rubric, no grade book for the professor to add up. If I do need to start paying attention to how I can receive a traditionally acceptable grade, then someone needs to tell me how. In fact, every one of my professors needs to tell me how. Inevitably, because grades are so subjective, all faculty will have their individual standards.

My fear of this new system lies in all of the High School negativity that surrounds grades: they naturally invite comparison, which is, often, unhealthy. Rather than sneaking a peek at my neighbor’s test, I’ve much preferred feeling satisfied in dialogues I’ve entered with professors about my own work. The conference system allows for unique thought production that no “one and done” test ever could.

I don’t want to have to do a minimal amount of work just in order to pass a class.  I’m sure my peers feel the same. Sarah Lawrence students are notorious for pushing the envelope, for asking questions that move far beyond the scale of “This paper is B work, but this could have given you that extra plus.” Perhaps this transition is a time for us all to ask difficult questions about our own academic place in the larger world. Perhaps this is a time for our student body to do what we do best: push the boundaries of tradition in order to get answers we can understand.

 

Image Credit: Hugh Thornhill

Gabrielle Campagnano (Opinion Editor)’s favorite word is communication. She is described by close friends (and enemies) as “diligent,” “an appreciator of words,” “jolly,” “hottest monogomist” and “moogle”. Although she concentrates in Poetry at Sarah Lawrence, you can talk to her about intelli-rap and Szechuan peppercorns. Post-grad, Gabrielle plans on readying the next generation of artists (ages 5-10) to take on the world with mindfulness and sensitivity.

3 Comments

  • Reply April 25, 2012

    Z

    I understand your wish to remain “just outside of everyone else’s collegiate requirements,” but it’s just a fact that although we don’t hear about them often, our grades do exist, and have been accessible, if not quite as easily so. I have checked my grades all three semesters I’ve been here – I emailed the registrar and waited until they got back to me. This semester, for me, and for other students who might also be interested in how they are doing, it’ll be a little bit easier. For any of our peers who don’t want to know, there is still the option not to look, just as there was an option not to email the registrar.

    The truth of it is, we need grades for this world, even though we don’t for this school. How to get good ones? On the whole, try, and prove that you are trying. I got an A in one class that I put a lot of effort into, but I’m sure my conference paper was not as well developed as the more advanced students with whom I was taking the class. In classes like that – theory classes, discussion based classes, certainly giving it an effort and growing your knowledge of the topic is a sure-fire way to receive a “good mark.” My teacher understood that the concepts were hard for me because I was so new to the topic, and he measured the growth of my opinions and understanding, and I was rewarded for my hard work. (One would hope that’s how most SLC professors function.)

    But what about in a language class? No matter how hard you try to conjugate some verbs, if you don’t get the pattern, if you for some reason can’t do it, you’re not going to get an A – that happened to me last year; I was rocky on some Spanish, wasn’t prepared for some tests, even though I was studying hard. My written Spanish is poor in comparison to my comprehension and oral abilities, I’ve been working it. I got full credit, was able to move on, but I didn’t pass everything. Education isn’t black and white.

    If, in math, you can’t grasp that 2+2 equals 4, how can the teacher really say, “Well, so and so has been investing himself fully in this intellectual endeavor, it’s just taking him a little longer than most…” even if the teacher is completely understanding of the kid’s issues, that kid isn’t going to get an A. He’ll get credit, certainly, but I think at a certain point, you lose credit for doing poorly in a class. And that’s where it’s rocky. Because I swear to goodness I was applying myself sooo much in Spanish. And maybe I should have taken more time. Maybe Smith in math should’ve studied that 2+2 a little more carefully. Or maybe the issue is that the grading and teaching system itself isn’t quite fair – maybe i needed more individual time or just more time going over it in class. Maybe that’s where the flaw is.

    In the grand scheme of things, and perhaps unfortunately, we do still have grades, and no matter what any student said when we were touring around before we were accepted, that student had a transcript with letters inked out on it beneath his or her name, too. And that’s because despite wanting to be just a bit out of bounds, teaching us to be radical and teaching us to think beyond what is quantifiable, SLC still exists in a world where grades do carry a certain importance. Your study abroad program wants them, your grad school will want them, SLC will probably make sure you did okay in order to graduate (although they will probably never compare your GPA to someone else’s to determine rank or make a statement about intelligence). So even though yes, grades “don’t matter” within this little bubble, the real world is out there, and the real world wants them.

    And I think the way to go about doing well (not just here, but in life) is applying yourself, pushing yourself, which I get the feeling you already do. If something isn’t working, try something else. Ask your professors, don’t wait for them to give you all the answers. This is Sarah Lawrence, they like initiative. Just because you can get an A by doing a minimum amount of work doesn’t mean you have to (not to mention the fact that people can still get full credit without fully applying themselves – but again, that doesn’t have to be you).

    I like to know where I’m at, that’s why I get my grades, that’s why I ask my teachers every couple weeks how they think I’m performing, if there’s anything I’m missing that I don’t realize I’m missing. And I’m not going to be deterred by my not-A in Spanish last year. I’ve been using it as a motivator. I’ve been trying to learn from my mistakes, trying new ways of studying, and focusing on my writing, and hey, I’m heading to Buenos Aires in July to study abroad for 12 months, so I guess I didn’t too badly, and I only plan to do even better.

    At the very least, have a little faith in yourself. Just because you have a new option doesn’t mean it’s mandatory. Keep on keeping on, in whatever way works for you and whatever way makes you proud. Good luck!

  • Reply April 25, 2012

    Ari Jones

    I think your questions about how to get good grades is funny since whether or not you look at them, you’re still getting them. Just because you didn’t look at your transcript, doesn’t mean that your professors didn’t grade you. I think that just because grades are available online doesn’t mean you have to change the way you act because the idea of grades being given simply isn’t new before. They just weren’t automatically available to you.

    It seems like you should still do your best in classes, push yourself beyond, bond with your prof, etc. If you’re really concerned about what grade you’re getting in a class, can’t you just ask the professor about it? It seems like the whole point of our conference system is to buld relationships with teachers, relationships that would allow you to feel comfortable enough to ask them about your standing in the class.

  • Unfortunately we are all judged in some way,however, I would give you and A in attitude, work ethic, perseverance, and accomplishment.

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