Poet and creative writing professor Paul Muldoon, an opponent of grade deflation, wrote a widely read letter to The Daily Princetonian, saying that discussions of the policy often overlook how it affects the faculty. Muldoon shared his views on the system’s downsides with PAW intern Allie Weiss ’13.
You argue that grade deflation is offensive to the faculty. Why?
Because it implies that this rather able faculty is suddenly unable to calculate a grade.
How has grade deflation affected your experience as a professor? How do you think it affects the students?
Many of the courses I teach [in the creative writing program] are pass/fail, but we grade our senior theses, for example. I myself am coming round to the idea that all creative-arts courses should be graded. In the case of one I’m teaching this semester, called “How to Write a Song,” there are 23 students in it. I would be inclined to give at least 20 of them an A. That’s what they deserve, and that’s what they should get.
What conversations about grading are taking place among the faculty? Is there a consensus?
I’m sure faculty grading policies are the least of their concerns. They’ve more important things to be doing. Consensus is an overrated condition. This is a university. We’re meant to encourage people who hold other views.
What would change if the grade deflation was ended?
I’d like to think faculty would grade rigorously and responsibly without the sense of their own efforts being scrutinized and, in the early stages at least, enforced in a rather threatening way. Despite the pretext that this was a faculty-approved initiative, the dogs in the street know that the architect of grade deflation at Princeton was one person. She has moved on. We should now all move on.