Skip to comments.UMass student loses grade suit (boo hoo)
Posted on 10/24/2007 9:51:43 AM PDT by Disturbin
AMHERST - University of Massachusetts student Brian C. Marquis may have to settle for the "C" he received in a philosophy course.
A judge in U.S. District Court, Springfield, has determined Marquis failed in his effort to prove grounds for a civil rights case against the university over the letter grade he contended didn't match the numerical rating he'd received.
Marquis sued the university last winter, claiming UMass officials violated his rights. The lawsuit was dismissed recently by Judge Michael A. Ponsor, but Marquis says he might not be finished.
"Grades are very serious, and they should be taken seriously as far as I'm concerned," said Marquis, a 51-year-old registered paralegal from Lanesboro, who hopes to graduate next year.
The lawsuit charged UMass with 15 counts, including breach of contract and violation of the First Amendment. The dispute began in January when Marquis received a "C" in Philosophy 161: Problems in Social Thought.
Since his numerical total for the semester was 84, Marquis claimed in his suit that it didn't make sense for him to receive a "C" in the course. In his complaint, Marquis also argued that his numerical grade was in fact a 92.1, not an 84.
Shortly after receiving the "C" grade, Marquis contacted Jeremy D. Cushing, the teaching assistant who taught the course and graded Marquis, according to court documents.
Cushing responded to Marquis' concerns in an e-mail: "I set a curve (or, more accurately, I drew up a new grade scale). I thought your grade was a good reflection of your work," the lawsuit states.
Marquis also brought his complaint to Catharine C. Porter, the university ombudsman, the suit stated. After reviewing the objection, Porter concluded in an e-mail to Marquis that "there were no grounds for an academic grievance."
Fed up with his low grade, Marquis filed his lawsuit on Jan. 30. Porter was named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with several other university officials.
Porter stated in an e-mail interview that she stands by her initial findings, stating, "Marquis was fairly treated by the university and was offered the opportunity to appeal his grade through the formal academic grievance process, which he refused."
After the university filed a motion to dismiss the case, Marquis said he made "numerous" attempts to settle with the university, but that they "categorically rejected all settle demands."
At a summary judgment hearing in federal district court in September, Ponsor made his ruling to dismiss the suit.
Phillip Bricker, the Philosophy Department head, said he's glad the dispute is resolved. Bricker said he believed Marquis was treated fairly.
"The issue in this course was whether the number that had been given on tests had some absolute meaning," said Bricker. "The instructor made it clear that the numbers didn't have that meaning."
Bricker added that a case like this one is "very rare" and thinks "it's not really the sort of thing that should be decided by the courts."
Although the case was dismissed, Marquis said he's seriously considering refiling the lawsuit under a different statute.
"I like the university, and it certainly has a place in our society," said Marquis. "But their grading system is seriously flawed."
Aside from getting his grade changed to an "A-," Marquis wanted UMass to implement a universal grade scale. Under such a scale, an 84, for example, would automatically translate to a "B," regardless of what the instructor decides to do.
Wow, not even out of law school and he has already lost his first case. That has to be some kind of record.
The professor has a full letter grade of discression that cannot be contested. This is standard practice at every university
Ha ha, exactly. But now he has a “civil rights struggle” to overcome!
discression = discretion
LOL! You're right.
What a dolt. “C” in Philosophy but an “F” as a person.
The proverbial professional student.
Which will come first?
Graduation or Social Security checks?
The Aggrieved Party
“The professor has a full letter grade of discression that cannot be contested. This is standard practice at every university”
So you would perfectly happy if, in a course you were taking that had a very liberal professor, you had earned a ‘C’ on all course work, but he gave you a ‘D’ because he didn’t like that you had challenged some of his ideas?
yet another reason NOT to grade on a curve
Lived it. American History with an ultra liberal professor. Should have gotten an A, got a B. Went to the Dean of the College to complain and the Dean showed me in the university policies that there is a full letter grade of discretion for the professor. That’s up or down.
Wasn’t happy about it, but it was in the policy in black and white. Doesn’t make it right.
Parents would be much better off giving their kids 25K and a pile of pamphlets from the Small Bus. Administration upon graduation. An 18 year old kid would be better off investing in a small business than wasting time at most of our 4 year universities (I know this was no “kid”, but this is an indicator of where our Universities are heading as well as the “skulls of mush” that are presently attending....
As a college prof I’m normally a fan of the “older student”. Many return to get the degrees they put on hold due to children, military service, etc. I understand and applaud this sort of student. They are usually focused and much more disciplined than the young kids. (On the down side many of these folks simply want a paper. But that’s not much different than the 18 years we have showing up on the doorstep.)
Others return to the university for advanced degrees to improve their job situation or to change careers in midlife. Life happens. Some pick up the Masters or go to get an MBA after some years spent in industry, etc. Other degrees simply take a lot of time, an MD, Ph.D. or professional schools.
That said, to be 51 years old and still working on a first bachelor’s degree (with hopes of going on to law school!) strikes me as a bit odd. Not wanting to rain on his parade but let’s say he graduates next year, then does 3 years of law school. So now the guy is in his mid 50s with a brand new law degree and no experience as an attorney. Good luck with that retirement plan amigo.
Wow, is there a pony tail we can’t see?
Maybe he’s planning on becoming a professor. Haha
Personally, no. But that's the way it is in academia.
I had a speeech prof who didn't like engineers, and hated male engineers in particular - and told us so at the beginning of the semester. ...Bitter, spiteful, vindictive Witch.... I'm sure that the work I did would have been an 'A' with anyone else. Good friend pulled a '4.0' in Electrical Engineering (next to damn impossible achievement, IMHO) with the exception of that class, in which he got a 'C'.
I, and the rest of the engineers in my class, got our 'C's and got the heck out. It was an excellent learning experience. I learned that Stupid Vindictive People with a little bit of power tend to discriminate against people smarter than they are, if they can get waay with it. A good life lesson.
The worst part of any teaching job is listening to students whine about the grades they earned.
This guy went about it the wrong way, but somewhere in there, I think he makes a good point.
What, exactly, do grades mean?
GPA’s can and do influence future job prospects, as well as admission to the next level of education.
Are grades an absolute measure - any student who gains x level of comprension of the course material gets an “A” and it doesn’t matter of you have a class with all “A”s or no “A”s - this is what a GPA seems to infer on your record.
Or, is a grade a relative measure - your standing within the 30 (or whatever number of) people in your class. In other words, a curve. Be lucky enough to be in a class full of dunces and get an easy “A”. End up in a class full of geniouses, and struggle to pass.
Seems like the guy is saying that “curving” a class makes a grade, and thus your GPA relative to an unknowable reference - i.e. no employer or graduate school will have any idea what sort of fellow classmates you were “curved” against so the value of a GPA as a measure of your ability and effort is diluted.
Sure, in most cases, it all evens out, but this is a subject that really ought to be addressed in a standardized way, or the source of the grades (absolute or relative) disclosed on transcripts.
Maybe that IS his retirement plan. I can think of worse ways to make a living than drawing up a few wills and reviewing paperwork related to home sales. Actually, that seems like a pretty good way to spend my retirement.
How generous of him. The university was founded in 1863, almost a century before this guy was born, but finally the faculty and administrators can feel good about themselves, now they have gotten his stamp of approval.
The prof said all each group would recieve the same letter grade for the project.
Three of us did the work, one did nothing.
We complained, prof said “life’s not fair. Get used to it.”
End of semester, three of us got A’s. One got an F.
As you’d expect, the slacker threw a fit.
The great professor said “life’s not fair. Get used to it.”
Talk about lessons learned!
I wasn't even close, so it was a short interview. :-)
Every single other place (dozens, since I've gotten out of school) just wants to know if I have a degree. That's it. If I had known how very little a GPA matters in the real world, I'd have paid even less attention to it.
Maybe academia is different, or maybe GPA matters in other disciplines, but not in Engineering/IT/Tech-work.
The prof said all IN each group would recieve the same letter grade for the project.
I'm pretty sure that all of my profs were up front on their grading. Even if it didn't make any sense....
I had one doozy who, on tests, would start at '0', add points for correct answers, take points away for incorrect answers, and then put the whole thing on a curve (-10 to -7 a 'D', -6 to -2 a 'C' and so forth). Conceivably on some tests, one could turn in a blank sheet of paper with your name on it and expect an 'A'. No one had the stones to try it, though.
Damned public schools dumbing down America, 84 was NEVER EVER a B in any school I attended, that was always C. 93-100 A, 86-92 B, 78-85 C, 70-77 D, 69 and under FAIL.
I know this guy is talking college, where curves are part of the game. Many courses are on a curve, and many advanced/speciality course they divy up grades completely irrellevant to your mathematical grade... IE Grades are related to class rank.. top 20% A, next B, next C, next D, Next FAIL... so you could theoretically wind up with a 95% and still get a failing grade if 80% of the class had an overall grade for you.
I don't know what this guys issue is, if he doesn't like it, retake the class and get a better grade and it gets removed from your GPA.
An 84 is a C in any traditional grading system, see my previous post.. only in the dumbed down public school system is an 84 ever considered a B.
giving civil rights new meaning.
Every school I was in during my elementary and high school years (1958 - 1970) the grading was A = 90 - 100, B = 80 - 89, C = 70 - 79, D = 60 - 69, E/F = 0 - 59.
I never ever was in a school where the scale was not as I posted. Wasn’t in public schools either. The idea a 60 is a passing grade is just sad and pathetic.
For the record my Son is currently in elementary school, and the grading scale there is the same one I grew up with. 69 or less = fail.
I would never even consider putting my child in a school where being wrong 40% of the time is considered passing, and 30% of the time is considered “average”.
As for me, I don’t agree with what the grad student did. Sure, it was probably technically “legal”, but not “right” in my book.
For me, if I ever alter the grading on an assignment it is always to favor/help the few who are really close to getting a better grade. Once I have set out my grading scale, that’s what I go with. I wouldn’t consider shafting people after the fact. That’s why we prepare the course and syllabus beforehand, at least in a perfect world.
I suspect our young grad student in this case got a little full of himself and decided to alter the grades. True, while this may be legal, it’s a crappy way to treat people who have done what you have asked of them. If the grad student thought the students enrolled in his class received too many high grades, well, that’s his problem as a teacher.
Perhaps he should reexamine how he constructed his course, reexamine how he grades, etc.
We’ve all had those classes where the bell curve is lopsided one way or another. That’s not your kids fault, that’s your fault as the prof. Whenever I get irritated I always try to remember what it would be like for me as the student. Be honest and fair with them and you’ll be amazed!
One problem may be that not all grad students should be teaching. Sure, it’s a way to save the uni bucks and get young folks practical experience, but it can blow up in your face. I’ve personally watched grad students berate their class for being “stupid” and “losers”, etc. Really insulting them. I had to step in at that point and explain that this is simply not how you treat students, or anyone, for that matter.
Some people simply shouldn’t be allowed in the classroom and the grad student from this case strikes me as a future problem for any school foolish enough to hire him. IMHO
All’s not happy in Happy Valley.
True enough, perhaps that is his retirement plan. Just struck me as odd because, as my two best friends, thirty-something lawyers tell me, there isn’t really a desperate shortage for lawyers right now. In fact competetion for decent jobs is damn fierce in some places.
If our gentleman student plans on being a hobby lawyer for entertainment purposes only, then that’s all well and good. Be he appears to take the thought of being an attorney seriously, at least judging from his litigation.
Mind you, I have no problem with starting a new career in your 50s or 60s, provided one goes about this sort of thing sensibly. ( I can’t even imagine the concept of “retirement” myself, I suppose others share my thoughts on this. I plan on doing something I love until I fall over dead.)
Anyhow, hopefully the guy has socked away money from his years as a paralegal, invested well, bought a home, etc. before he launched on a legal career in his mid 50s.
Maybe he has military retirement or other retirement income. If that’s the case, then by all means, go to law school, go to grad school and cure cancer, go to med school and save sick kids, hell, go to the technical school and finally learn how to build that sail boat you daydream about...do whatever it is you always wanted to do. Why sit on your butt for a few decades waiting to die? Keep living or start dieing.
But if you suddenly decide that, gosh, you really want to be an attorney at the age of 55 and you have no other source of income, well, you’re screwed.
hopefully the guy is well situated. but if he is a broke and desperate new attorney at the age of 55 he will be competing for jobs with freshly minted lawyers in their early 20s(they’ll work cheap), as well as all the guys and gals with a decade or two real experience(cost more but have half a clue what they are doing). I suspect he can use his rejection letters to file an age discrimination lawsuit.
As for flying solo and starting his own private practice, that takes money and business knowledge as well. If he has it and wants to do it, let him have a blast. It’s his life, and as long as he is paying for it, it really is none of our business. More people should try a new career later in life, having once gotten their house in order. And going back to school can be key. Learning keeps the mind stimulated, and who knows where it might take you? A lot of folks discover a love of art, etc. from taking classes when they get older. Others decide they would like to teach, write, start a new business, etc. It’s a great and wonderful thing, and much better for the soul than watching tv for 16 hours a day..
But let’s keep a little realism in our lives, I’m 33. I love my job, but I also like golf. Theoretically I probably could quit my teaching gig and concentrate on making the PGA tour. Maybe I’d make it. Probably I wouldn’t.
If I had all the money in the world I could probably get away with taking such a leap.
But common sense tells me to “keep my day job” until I have some things taken care of, silly luxuries like paid off home, retirement money, family security...hehe..
And my dreams of playing in the NBA are also getting pretty slim too. I suppose I could sue them, arguing that they are discriminating because they don’t have enough short, chubby white boys with glasses on their teams. Maybe I can hire this guy to represent me...hehe.
Wasnt happy about it, but it was in the policy in black and white. Doesnt make it right.
Well, that sure shows how fair the other side is...
I, and the rest of the engineers in my class, got our 'C's and got the heck out. It was an excellent learning experience. I learned that Stupid Vindictive People with a little bit of power tend to discriminate against people smarter than they are, if they can get away with it. A good life lesson.
I am assuming by speech you mean public speaking? Was it a required class?
Why did she hate engineers? (especially male ones?). Because "they thought they knew everything?" Maybe her world view was based on feelings and she was always losing aruments to engineering students who used logic so got back at them that way?
Guess your life lesson was that you might have to work on a project and some of your support is incompetent or just not there. But you still have to complete the project (for the job and the company or government agency you work for.)
Guess the slacker's lesson is not to believe the socialist promise of do as little as you want and you will still get the same reward as the hard workers...
A great prof at a good engineering school had four of us on a group senior engineering project.
The prof said all each group would recieve the same letter grade for the project.
Three of us did the work, one did nothing.
We complained, prof said lifes not fair. Get used to it.
End of semester, three of us got As. One got an F.
As youd expect, the slacker threw a fit.
The great professor said lifes not fair. Get used to it.
Talk about lessons learned!
Yes, and yes. There was one other prof who taught it; his classes (unsurprisingly) were always full.
I didn't get into her motivations. I just assumed that it was becuase she was a, er, witch. When the first words out of her mouth (to a class of engineers) were "I don't like engineers, and male ones in particular", that's not a good way to win over an audience (Public Speaking, hello?).
Having a required public speaking class was an excellent idea on the university's part. Heck, 50% or more of what I do involves clear, concise communications to management, customers, clients, etc etc etc. Unfortunately, my college's implementation could use some improvement. Last I knew, she was still there, doing her dammdest to bring misery to the best and the brightest.
actually “Grade suit” cases are generally successful.
I think there is a 65% success rate.
Successful issue are teacher incompetence (good for new teachers especially), bias, and on the fly unannounced standard changes.
There have been more than a few grad suits and professors do NOT have unfettered discression.
does a student fail because a student would not trade sex for grades?
does a student fail because a sudent said they agree with ronald reagan?
does a student fail because they don’t support the 9/11 conspiracy theories?
Many univeresities have adopted anonymous grading, students get a code for their exam so their names are not on there. This is to minimize professorial bias.
I doubt “destroy students grades on whim” is part of the orientation manual for professors.
Well, I don’t remember what my kids’ scales were, but one’s finished her B.S. in Electrical Engineering and the other is a senior finishing his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, so it couldn’t have been too bad.
I thought it was Mr. Streisand (James Brolin)!!