Don't lower standards in science classes

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In his Nov. 9 column, “Inflate grades in STEM programs,” Samian Quazi recommends lowered standards in grading as a solution for our nation’s declining science preeminence. His argument seems to be that if we pass unqualified students, their future employers will protect us from the incompetent. Perhaps he should consider the duty that the University of Texas has to ensure that all its graduates are indeed qualified in their respective fields. Passing more science students just to produce more unqualified graduates would be the surest way to destroy the integrity of U.S. science. I tell all my biology students that if they all master the material, they are all capable of earning As (and I would have no problem assigning all As in that situation). By the same reasoning, if none of them learn the material, they should all earn Fs. Every faculty member wants all of our students to excel and master the material that we teach, but effort is required on the part of students as well. Simply awarding high grades to the students who do not make the effort, or who lack the appropriate skills, is a recipe for certain decline in STEM fields. Inflated, unrealistic grades are also extremely unfair to the excellent students who do master the material.

Yes, there are easier majors and easier pathways to a high GPA on campus; that is a very poor reason for science faculty to lower their standards in their classes.

David M. Hillis
Integrative biology professor