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.