Please sir, can I have some more grade?

It is that time of year when I get inundated by emails for the sort:  Dear Professor. The grade I earned on SC200 is not what I hoped it would be. I need a higher grade to (a) stay in the country, (b) keep my funding up, (c) get into Schreyer’s Honors College, (d) get into/stay in Smeal Business College…. Please can you increase my grade?

Sometimes that message is prefaced with ‘Sorry to bother you‘, and sometimes it comes with comments like ‘I know I really mucked up  but…‘, and sometimes with ‘I worked really hard and came to class….‘, and sometimes it includes a statement like ‘I don’t think I should be penalized for my poor performance on a Gen Ed course when my classes in my major went so well‘, and other times with ‘Yours was my favorite class and I was relying on it to get me…‘.

I find it all really tough. Some of the stories are heart rendering. They all make me want to scream one of: Why the hell didn’t you work harder/engage more/get better organized/treat me and my class with respect/listen to my repeated warnings/look at your grade on Angel when you still had time to save it/take the extra credit options when they were available?

A group of professors are meeting to explore better teaching practice in Gen Ed. At today’s session, I raised the issue. The 15 faculty rose up as one. Bottom line: You have to stick to the syllabus grade algorithm. It is what the university mandates. And it is only fair to the other students who worked hard and performed well. Making concessions to individuals is unfair — and that way lies madness.

Well, that’s always been my philosophy too. Standards are standards. And Freshmen especially, as most of my class are, have to learn early in life that you have to earn it. Get organized, engage with it, do it, take control of your own education – and earn it.

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