Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hometown hero

Since everyone seems to be neck-deep in election news today, I thought I'd share a little Harvard news to spice things up. Turns out a lot has gone on up here since I last bothered to post about school!

For one thing, the grading system has officially been changed. HLS always used to give letter grades (A+, A, A-, B+ etc.) more or less like most of us had in undergrad, while our big rival, Yale, gave "mushier" grades (just Honors, Pass, Low Pass, and Fail) that were supposed to take some of the stress and competition out of student life. Stanford recently switched to Yale's system and now, after a few months of faculty and student input, Harvard has too. And since we first-years haven't had any exams yet, the change is being applied to us.

The general reasoning is that striving for the "A" or "A+" adds stress and competition to student life, discouraging involvement with time-consuming but fulfilling extracurriculars. I buy that, seeing all the work ahead of me with TAP and wondering how much studying it might prevent. But I also must admit a feeling of lost footing: unsure what's expected of me now or which grade I should be satisfied with, I'm finding it harder to let go of that "A" than I would have thought!

I'm tending to ramble a little here, so maybe I should employ bullet points. In other news:
  • I had my first advice day for TAP last week, and it was a real success. I returned two calls, one about an eviction and one about an unreturned security deposit, with mostly good news for both which was SO satisfying.
  • The Supreme Court case we saw "mooted" for Torts was argued Monday, and we were assigned the transcript of arguments to read for Tuesday's class. It's so exciting when you have a personal connection to something in the news like that. I wish I'd been there to discuss it- but I'll have to listen to a recording our professor made. I wasn't in class because-
  • I spent Election Day working as an exit pollster! The neighborhood where I was stationed was friendly and beautiful, and there was a big group of us, so things were smooth and fun. It felt good (if a little cold!) to be out and involved on such a big day, and the data we collected will tell our professors all kinds of things about the election, like whether there was any degree of Bradley effect.
  • Finally, it was a total joy being at school today. Most of us were fuzzy, sleep-deprived, and tardy, but the teachers- who were happier than we've ever seen them, as one of my classmates put it- were lenient and one even seemed impressed that so many of us made it to school at all. It made for a nice day, celebrating the success (even by Harvard standards!) of our local-boy-made-good.
Hope you all had fun this Election Day and are having an easier time getting back on track afterward than I am! More news before long, I'm sure.

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