This Week in Princeton History for January 7-13

In this week’s installment of our recurring series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Princetonian criticizes the grading system, the Texas governor gives an on-campus club the designation “Texas Embassy in New Jersey,” and more.

January 9, 1975—Princeton students are featured in the NBC documentary special The Changing Role of Women and Men. Architecture majors Lisa F. Lee ’76 and Robert C. Vuyosevich ’76 talk about how academic competition led to the breakup of their romance, which NBC says is one of the consequences of women entering fields previously dominated by men. Lee says she had other ideas, but they “were cut from the show.”

January 10, 1906—James Robb Church (Class of 1888) is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for deeds of valor in the Spanish American War.

January 11, 1877—The Princetonian editorializes that the grading system needs to change, because ranking students against one another and capping every class average at 85 unfairly penalizes good students. “A class of blockheads would make as good a showing as a class of admirable Crichtons.”

Sample page from the Registrar’s grade book, 1877. Note what appears to be the class ranking in red. Office of the Registrar Records (AC116), Box 15.

Continue reading

Grading at Princeton University

We sometimes get questions about what people see in alumni files. One of the more challenging things about reading academic records is dealing with unfamiliar grading rubrics. For example, we shared F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grade card with you a while ago. Though a dropped semester and repeated classes would indicate he did not do so well academically, the actual grades he received—mostly a series of 4s and 5s—are bewildering to modern eyes.

Grading at Princeton table

Click to enlarge this table.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for October 19-25

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, the Princetonian suggests the grading “vogue” is a bad idea, the campus mourns Thomas Alva Edison, and more.

October 19, 1876—The Daily Princetonian laments that the College of New Jersey (Princeton) has joined in the grading “vogue,” and urges that the practice of giving students grades be stopped.

October 21, 1931—In memorial of inventor Thomas Edison, who died on October 19, the University observes a one-minute period from 7:00-7:01 PM when all electric lights are extinguished.

Thomas_A._Edison_Dean_West_George_W._Goethals_June_15_1915_AC106_Box_6

Thomas Alva Edison, Allen West, and George W. Goethals, at Princeton University Commencement, June 15, 1915. Edison, along with Goethals (builder of the Panama Canal), received honorary degrees that day. Honorary Degree Records (AC106), Box 6.

Continue reading

This Week in Princeton History for January 12-18

In this week’s installment of our ongoing series bringing you the history of Princeton University and its faculty, students, and alumni, final exams prove stressful, the Nude Olympics meet their end, and more.

January 12, 1941—A pre-finals blackout distresses residents of five Princeton dormitories. The next morning, the Daily Princetonian will report: “After hesitatingly peering skyward to assure themselves that no Nazi bombers were heaving over the horizon, they swore that even in London they didn’t have to take exams the day following a blackout.”

January 13, 1893—In response to widespread cheating that many fear diminishes the accomplishments of those who do their own work, College of New Jersey (Princeton University) students call for an honor system. The Honor Code will be adopted and first used on an English Literature exam on January 26.

Barringer_Exam_1938_AC054_Box_22

Philip Ellicott Barringer ’38’s final exam in History 314 (The Renaissance and the Reformation), Spring 1938. Note the Honor Pledge’s now-outdated wording. Course Examinations Collection (AC054), Box 22. (Access to students’ academic records is governed by this policy.)

January 14, 1969—To protest the concept of grades, 27 Princeton philosophy majors go on “strike,” refusing to sign their final exams. Several other students in Philosophy 300 reportedly follow their lead in solidarity. Their effort to rid Princeton of grades ultimately fails, and the students will all identify their exams and accept the grades assigned by their professors several weeks later.

January 15, 1999—The New York Times reports that the Nude Olympics will likely not continue at Princeton after the year’s event resulted in the hospitalization of five students. The tradition, which evolved during the 1970s streaking fad and has been discouraged by the administration for years, consists of the sophomore class running laps in the nude around the Holder Courtyard after each year’s first snowfall. The Times article quotes Peter Dutton ’91: “Can’t undergraduates run naked in a restrained and dignified manner anymore?” (Ultimately, 1999’s Olympics will be the last naked frolic in the snow for Princeton’s undergraduates.)

Nude_Olympics_Cartoon_Prince_8_Mar_1974

 1974 cartoon from the Daily Princetonian. Video of the 1986 Nude Olympics can be found here.

For last week’s installment in this series, click here.

Fact check: We always strive for accuracy, but if you believe you see an error, please contact us.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Princeton Career and the Triangle Club

Written by Dan Linke

Today marks the 118th anniversary of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birth and 101 years since he entered Princeton University, the place he dubbed “the pleasantest country club in America.” That phrase, a great irritant to then University President John Grier Hibben, is found in his first novel, This Side of Paradise, which chronicles Amory Blaine’s time as an undergraduate and his fascination with eating clubs, sports, social life, and Fitzgerald’s true Princeton obsession, the Triangle Club.

Fitzgerald_Herald_600jpg

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s portrait from the Class of 1917 Nassau Herald.

Fitzgerald is the sole author of all the song lyrics for three consecutive Triangle Club shows (Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi!, 1914-1915; The Evil Eye, 1915-1916; and Safety First, 1916-1917), a prolific record unmatched in the Club’s nearly 125 year history.  When asked “what was your major?,” it is not uncommon for Club alumni to respond with “Triangle, with a minor in Chemistry” [or English, or any other subject that they ostensibly studied].  For Fitzgerald, the answer appears to be the same, as evidenced by his grade card and his failure to graduate.

Admitted on trial, as his card notes, Fitzgerald struggled with most of his classes and was placed in the fifth (the lowest) class throughout his three years.  This should encourage aspiring writers everywhere, however, given that one of the greatest 20th century American authors never received higher than a B+ (a 3, on a 1-7 scale) in his English classes, but went on to write works still read avidly almost 75 years after his death.

Images taken from Office of the Registrar Records, Box 103. Click to enlarge:

f.scott_1a F_scott_1b F_scott_2a F_scott_2b

N.B. Access to undergraduate alumni records is governed by this policy.