Turning college into a zero-sum game hurts their chances of succeeding after graduation.
Here’s my take.
I’m a former math professor. From my experience, all of this fuss about grading is really a fuss about how students “feel”; that is, how they feel about their “college experience”. Administrators don’t want anything to effect that experience negatively. That would lead to lower US News rankings.
It’s not that student feelings aren’t important. They are very important. But I have found that when a professor treats his/her students with concern, care, and respect, then the professor can get on with his/her job – seeing that the students learn. After all, learning is, in the long run, what professors can contribute to students’ feelings.
Now for grading. That’s easy. When I teach a course, I have a really good idea of what learning the material “excellently”, “well”, “average”, etc…means and I grade accordingly; and my students know that. It’s that simple to be a good professor. To be a good employee (from the perspective of an administration that cares for its own “feelings”) is not so easy. To see that, see my blog inside-higher-ed .