February 18, 2013
If A C+ Just Isn’t Good Enough
As a college professor, I have heard some weird complaints from students before. Some of these complaints have been legitimate, although most really result from personality differences between student and prof. Well, on Monday, February 11, 2013, one student from Lehigh University took her complaint to court.
According to The Morning Call, Lehigh University student Megan Thode took her unhappiness over a grade to the next level; she sued. A bit of background here: Thode received a C-plus in a graduate course. The C-plus prevented her from moving onto the next course sequence, which prevented her from graduating with a degree in counseling. She did receive a degree in human development, but she cannot receive state certification in counseling.
But that’s not all. Thode is the daughter of a Lehigh University finance professor, Stephen Thode. She went to school tuition-free and worked for Lehigh, too.
According to Thode, she received the grade because she was an outspoken LGBT activist and because she had complained when she and three other students were forced to find supplemental internships. The professor, Amanda Carr, explained that Thode did not participate in the class discussions and activities adequately nor did she present herself in a professional manner thus she received a 0 out of 25 on that portion of the grade, which dropped her to a C-plus.
As The Huffington Post later explained, “Thode’s attorney, Richard Orloski, argued that the zero is so rare that it would be appropriate for Giordano to change the grade. ‘My client stands alone in the history of Lehigh in getting a zero in class participation,’ he said.”
Thode sued to have the C-plus changed to a B and sought $1.3 million (USD) in damages, which an expert estimated would be the damages in earnings Thode would suffer as a result over the course of her career.
What a weave of complication this all is. And then comes the result. The Huffington Post reported on February 14, 2013, that Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano ruled against Thode’s case. She would not receive the grade change; she would not receive the monetary compensation. She received nothing.
Neil Hamburg, Lehigh University lawyer, argued that “The grades are what the academics in the academic institutions say they are.” His point was that professors possess the knowledge and expertise to grade accordingly. Judges do not. That would be a dangerous precedent to set.
Much of this makes me uncomfortable. First of all, for a student to think that a lawsuit is an appropriate way to address a grade in a course is, frankly, discomforting. Instead of learning from the experience, assessing her own behavior and work, and retaking the course, this student lawyered-up. College is supposed to be an atmosphere that fosters learning and growth. If she was indeed inappropriate in her behaviors during class, and if that was part of the grade, then she needs to learn from the experience.
On the other side, though, if she was being persecuted for her complaints and her beliefs, then that is just as discomforting. Professors are meant to help foster that learning environment so that students can gain the knowledge they need for their professional lives, as well as continue life-long learning. If one student’s personal beliefs made her the target of ostracizing, then that is not good.
Obviously, Judge Giordano felt that this student did not present enough support for her case and ruled against her. I guess that means that her claims were unsupported.
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