This one is so messed up in so many ways.
A student in a veterinary medicine class at UC Davis recently gave birth. Her delivery came near the beginning of the semester, and it was unclear how many classes — and quizzes — she would miss. Her professor wasn’t sure how to deal with this situation…
Yep. He instructed the student “presidents” of the class to send around an email proposing six possible approaches to the problem, and announcing that the class would be conducting an online vote on which one to adopt. The choices were these:
a) automatic A final grade
b) automatic B final grade
c) automatic C final grade
d) graded the same as everyone else: best 6 quiz scores out of a possible 7 quiz scores (each quiz only given only once in class with no repeats)
e) just take a % of quiz scores (for example: your classmate takes 4 quizzes, averages 9/10 points = 90% = A)
f) give that student a single final exam at the end of the quarter (however this option is only available to this one student, all others are graded on the best 6 quiz scores and the % that results)
Isis, the blogger who broke the story, calls this a “shameful” act of “gender discrimination,” which it is. She also notes that the university has policies on incompletes and medical leave which would apply to this situation. Finally, she notes that making this kind of decision is a professor’s job:
The other part of this that bothers me is that it is not the responsibility or privilege of students in a graduate program to determine the fate of their peers. This is why there are graduate faculty and if Dr. Feldman was truly so baffled about what to do with this student, he should have turned to his peers or more senior university officials for guidance.
This wasn’t a new faculty member or a grad student, by the way. The professor who did this, Edward C. Feldman, is a department chair. Reached for comment yesterday, he had this response to an Inside Higher Education reporter: “I don’t care what people say. It is between me, my students and my school.”
Grading fairly and ethically is one of a professor’s most serious obligations. To see it treated so recklessly is shocking to me, and I’m not easily shocked.
Update | I was too busy boggling to point this out in the original post, but four of the six options provided to the students strike me as pretty obviously unethical, however they were arrived at. To give a student an unearned grade (whatever that grade may be) is completely improper, as is flunking a student on a test missed for a legitimate medical reason.