I have believed for a long time that the college, and those who speak for it, are way too fast and loose about revealing the GPAs of our students at CCA events, convocations, or in other public venues — to include, most recently, the pages of The Collegian.
When the photos of the 10 nominees for the President’s Ball court appeared in the paper two weeks ago, with the GPA of every one of them underneath the pictures, I decided to write this letter. In doing so, I mean to impugn the actions of no one. Rather, I simply wish to propose that the details of a student’s academic performance deserve to be treated as private and should not be considered part of his or her profile to be disclosed so habitually at college functions. There are certain things about any person that, frankly, are not the public’s business. Individual GPA ought to belong in that category.
If one is being presented as valedictorian of his/her class, or even as one of the top five or 10 academic performers among graduating seniors, then an audience can assume the GPA is exceptionally high and be told what it is with little chance of surprise or potential embarrassment. But, when students are presented at a CCA dinner or lecture, or tapped to speak at Freshman Convocation, or nominated for king or queen of the President’s Ball court, why must the GPA be part of their introduction? It just doesn’t seem necessary, or right — especially, as is sometimes the case, when the student might not be in the uppermost academic echelon.
Even when one is exceptionally successful in the classroom, to reveal the GPA conveys the message that such statistics about the individual are somehow a defining characteristic, at least important enough for everyone to know. Our students deserve better than that.
We have wonderful students here, and we are justifiably proud of them. But, when we celebrate them at public moments, they should not be expected unduly to give up their privacy.
Tom Conner is a professor of history at Hillsdale College.