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Fear and Selective Sympathy Imperil College Grading

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WASHINGTON - Amzeal -- The overwhelming majority of college professors [>80%] admit that they yield to threats and pleas to award unearned higher grades to students who complain, notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf of George Washington University [GWU].

Among the most common reasons professors cite for giving some students unearned "A" grades is "fear" - which was explained as a "rational concern considering a student at the University of Arizona killed his professor on campus last year" - and feeling bad for students who complain.

That "fear" is very real, since 38% of professors say they have faced harassment from students, and an astonishing 33% have experienced harassment even from parents.

The Internet has also made it far easier for an individual student to harass or punish a professor who does not give in to demands for a higher grade by posting critical comments or ratings on special sites, using email including listservs to spread complaints and rumors, and to even tape (video or audio) and then post on line small snippets of statements recorded in class but taken misleadingly out of context.

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Most professors tried to justify their decisions to violate university grading policies by claiming that students deserve a "second chance"; even though only those students who complain about their lower-than-hoped-for grades get this unfair boost.

Prof. Banzhaf has fought irrational and unfair grading practices for many years.  For example, he convinced his GWU law school to require anonymous grading wherever possible to prevent professors from awarding or penalizing certain students based upon factors such as race, gender, sexual preference, or even for opinions voiced in classroom discussions.

With an ever growing number of students - especially those who are conservative or libertarian - expressing fear that professors will retaliate against them with lower grades if they express ideas in classroom discussions which do not please the teacher, anonymous grading provides an important protection, and helps encourage students to express views which may be controversial.

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Banzhaf also successfully pressured the GWU Law School to adopt a mandatory grading curve policy to deal with various professors who had very different views about grades and grading.

However, Banzhaf admits that for many of his colleagues, standing up to demands by students - whether for higher grades, to refrain from using certain words or discussing certain subjects, to not express controversial views in their writings, etc. - may prove difficult if not impossible, especially if they don't receive strong support for doing do from colleagues and from college administrators.

http://banzhaf.net/   jbanzhaf3ATgmail.com   @profbanzhaf

GW Law

Source: Public Interest Law Professor John Banzhaf
Filed Under: Education

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