The Harvard Crimson reported that starting in fall 2009, HLS will adopt a pass/fail grading system for all matriculating students, instead of its current letter grading scale. The new grading system is modeled after similar systems used at Yale and Stanford’s law schools, and aims to both simplify the grading process and eliminate unnecessary competition. In her e-mail announcement, HLS Dean Elena Kagan explained,
“What we most wanted to do was decrease the number of categories we were using… The new classifications, much as at Yale and Stanford, will be Honors-Pass-Low Pass-Fail. The faculty believes that this decision will promote pedagogical excellence and innovation and further strengthen the intellectual community in which we all live.”
Exactly how and if the new grading system will affect current students is still an issue that is up for discussion. Ideas for a possible transition phase are being researched, as well.
Although the new grading system was adopted at a faculty meeting, both faculty members and students alike have expressed concern regarding the potential inability to distinguish among students, with the simplified grading system. Many more students may graduate HLS with similar looking profiles, making it that much harder for potential employers to identify top students.
Others, however, expressed optimism regarding the possibility for reduced pressure and thereby greater allowance for more extra -curricular involvement.