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News & Notes: Harvard dean admits most frequently awarded and median grades are A, A-, respectively

The most frequently given grade at Harvard College is an A and the median grade is an A-, Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris told attendees of a monthly faculty meeting on Tuesday, The Harvard Crimson reported. He said his remark was based on grading data from fall 2012 and several previous semesters.

According to The Crimson, Harris’ statement is perceived to be “supporting suspicions that the College employs a softer grading standard than many of its peer institutions.”

Harris’ remark was made in direct response to a question from government professor Harvey C. Mansfield, who had asked whether rumors that the most frequently given grade at Harvard was an A- were true and asserted that such a phenomenon would represent “a failure on the part of this faculty and its leadership to maintain our academic standards.”

In contrast, Princeton implemented an official policy of grade deflation under former Dean of the College Nancy Malkiel in 2004 in response to perceived grade inflation in certain courses. The policy stipulates that no more than 35 percent of grades given out in any department should be in the A range. Largely in response to alumni concerns, the University announced on Oct. 7 that the policy will be reviewed over the next year.

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