Letters To The Editor


November 05, 2003

Improvement in UM's quality is no illusion

Let's start with some simple, honest facts: The University of Maryland, College Park's 3.88 mean GPA for incoming freshmen includes the grades of every student in the class as provided by their high schools. The mean freshman GPA has shot up from a 3.54 since 1998; that's a real, significant increase, one that reinforces the rapid rise in the quality of our students ("Are UM freshmen getting smarter? Depends how you make the grade," Oct. 30).

Using high schools' weighted grade point averages to show achievement in tougher courses is standard practice as one factor in admission and one way of describing the class. When used in combination with other factors, this information is a useful measure of student achievement.

Admissions officers do recognize that using only the mean GPA for the entire class doesn't communicate the range of achievement. Some students might interpret an average as a cut-off and think they are not qualified, despite having great credentials. To balance that we often cite another simple fact, that 80 percent of our freshmen have a 3.0 GPA or higher.

However, using an average GPA to compare changes for a large group of students is an excellent way to show real differences over time. And when we tell alumni that our average GPA climbed from 3.5 to 3.9 in five years, we cite a valid statistical comparison that shows real differences in the achievement of our students.

This improvement is confirmed by other data - rapidly rising SAT scores ranges, numbers of merit scholars and valedictorians, numbers of honors and AP courses taken - which show that Maryland's rise to the top ranks of public universities in the state and nation is unique.

This upward trend in virtually every measure of UM quality is reflected in our communications about Maryland's rapid rise.

What's "bogus" is the fact that an overzealous reporter used admissions officers' comments about the limits of a mean GPA to communicate with prospective students about admission requirements, to support his notion that we inappropriately use weighted grades.

Terry Flannery

College Park

The writer is executive director of marketing and communications for the University of Maryland, College Park.

Senator Sarbanes sets a fine example

Kudos to Dan Rodricks for his column regarding the misperceptions of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes ("Firebrand Sarbanes stands on principle," Oct. 30).

The senator has been, and continues to be, one of the hardest-working members of either house of Congress. And it would be difficult to find a more conscientious, informed, intelligent and dedicated public servant than Mr. Sarbanes. In personal conversation as well as in public forum, I have always found him to be articulate and witty and to have a clear grasp of whatever issue was being discussed.

I have not always agreed with him, but I am quite grateful for his consistent high quality of service as a strong advocate for Maryland as well as his serious and clear-headed dedication to his post.

David Manning


State's best lawyers work in Washington

Dan Rodricks' column "Firebrand Sarbanes stands on principle" (Oct. 30) contained an impermissible slight to a significant portion of the Maryland legal community: lawyers who live in Maryland and work in Washington.

One of these lawyers, a resident of Montgomery County, was nominated to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals but did not survive the Baltimore allegiance test that is apparently required of such nominees.

Sometimes the truth hurts, but here it is: The best lawyers in Maryland don't practice there. They practice in the nation's capital. To pretend otherwise is to do a disservice to the nation and to Maryland's best legal minds.

Robert Helm


Where's the recourse for artistic elitism?

Congratulations to artist Stan Edmister, Fred Lazarus IV, Kenneth Hart and other critics of the mayor for being a bunch of elitists ("Mayor defeated in battle of the bridge," Nov. 1).

At least if the fine citizens of Baltimore didn't like the mayor's Kelly green scheme for the Howard Street Bridge they could vote him out of office.

What recourse do they have when these artists' garish assault reaches their senses?

Monte Schwarzwalder


Taking bridge colors a bit too seriously

It looks as if Mayor Martin O'Malley went A Bridge Too Far ("Mayor defeated in battle of the bridge," Nov. 1).

Paul D. Kemp


Shecter didn't save Charles St. corridor

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