Hilarious article written by next year's Synapse editor, Arul, in honor of our yearly April Fool's issue (called Relapse). For some reason, UCSF has a reputation for being fiercely competitive and intense, but it's actually one of the most touchy-feely medical schools around. We just like to pretend that we're all business -- prickly demeanor on the outside....soft gooey caseating mush on the inside.
Note: this article is entirely fictional.
Grades: As Easy as A, B, C
By Arul Thangavel
Relapse Staff Writer
In a surprising move, UCSF School of Medicine has announced that it will switch from its current Pass/Fail grading system to a more traditional A/B/C grading system at the request of students. Many of the top medical schools in the country have had a Pass/Fail – or the even more friendly Pass/No Pass – system in place for many years now, at least during students’ pre-clinical education, to encourage a spirit of camaraderie and curiosity among students instead of fierce competition. But here at UCSF, many first-year medical students have complained that the current system has not allowed their competitive urges to fully blossom – and as a result, they pushed the administration hard for a change back to what many Deans call “the dark ages.”
Stories of “the dark ages” of medical education, which spanned much of the twentieth century, are severe. Students, graded on a strict curve against their peers, tried whatever they could to get the edge on their classmates, from hiding library books to grabbing group study room cards but not using them, to buying up entire stores of Netter’s Anatomy from the school bookstore to get the famed “restocking advantage” – other students squirmed for thirty days while the consortium of students who bought the multitude of Netter’s sat comfortably by. In one particularly ugly case, a student – not at UCSF – willfully got bitten by a werewolf so he could become a fearsome beast once a month on test day – scaring students and professors out of the room and securing a decided advantage for himself. Only a few students stayed in the room with the seemingly mythical creature, and they had their heads down while it bubbled its Scantron furiously.
First-year medical students at UCSF, though, believe that the pendulum has swung back the other way now. George Hulley, MS-I, laments, “Have you been to one of our small groups? It’s a love-fest. Everyone says, ‘Oh you’re right,’ and then ‘Oh no, you’re right.’ Come on people. You can’t both be right. Man.” Other students complain that tests are far too easy, citing the fact that every student passed the Pulmonary block exam. Michael Tseng, MS-I, suggests, “If everyone in the class is passing, we’re obviously doing something wrong. I have no idea whether I’m better than someone like, say, you, Arul. Without that knowledge, I don’t know if I’m really getting anything out of my medical education. I need to better someone else.” Tseng further displayed his competitive urge by challenging this reporter to a series of mock medical aptitude tests, “right here, right now.” Clearly, UCSF students needed an outlet for these fearful feelings.
UCSF administration says that they tried to provide an outlet to competitive feelings through non-scholarly activities such as intramural sports and extracurricular activities. Even these activities, though, have spiraled into fierce tete-a-tete’s, with one memorable moment involving water balloons, freezers and both Homeless Clinic and Clinica Martin-Baro. Intramural basketball games have ended in utter failure, with each individual student trying to outshine the other on her team, causing massive team losses. In response to these results and strong opinion from students, faculty finally succumbed and allowed grades – even with pluses and minuses – back for next year.
Emily Whichard, MS-I, is excited. “Finally! Now I can show people that I know more than them in a standardized way. Standardized is key. Normally I have to wait until a certain point in a conversation and then chime in the answer from afar. And then you don’t always get the credit. Now I will – the administrators have made the right decision.” Hugo Torres, MS-I, is also gleeful, “I can’t believe how great this is – grades are the best. They make me feel like I’m in high school all over again.”
It remains to be seen how this saga will unfold, but one thing’s for sure – the academic heat has been turned up a notch at UCSF School of Medicine.