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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.