Updates from Planet Academia

Two recent stories from academia will shock and appall:

1.  James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal discusses “justice” for the accused on campus.  In particular, he tells the story of one Auburn student who hardly received a fair hearing from the university on the road to being expelled.  He received little due process for “committing” crimes that government courts ultimately cleared him of for insufficient evidence and lack of an accuser.  (I doubt he would have been handled this way if he played football….)

This piece is definitely worth reading in full.  Victims of crimes on campus no doubt should have the support of the university and proper access to the justice system to try those accused of a crime and to punish them as appropriate if found guilty.  However, universities are ill-suited to develop a proper justice system that respects the rights of the accused and the accuser.  Taranto nicely shows this to be the case and how Auburn really botched this one.

2.  This piece in CNN is example number the googolplexth (HT: JS) on grade inflation in higher education.  But there is one remarkable story in it that surprises even someone like me who has spent most of his adult life in higher ed:

In the mid-1970s, when I was a dean at Boston University, there were rumors that a certain professor was indiscriminately awarding a final grade of A to all his students. That was unusual back then when most professors graded on the bell curve and only a handful of the best students received an A. Some actually failed and most received grades of B or C.

But in the case of this particular professor everybody got an A. As a test, I surreptitiously enrolled a fictitious student into the roster of his next class. This “nobody” never came to class, never wrote a term paper and never took an exam. At the end of the semester the mysterious student received an A.

That led to a discussion with the professor. In a tone of righteous indignation he claimed I had overstepped my bounds to play such a trick on him. With righteous indignation I claimed that he had underperformed as a professor by acting in a reckless manner, grading his students with careless abandonment. Steam came out of both our ears. I believed his actions were a mark of failure in academic responsibility.

Unfortunately, this former dean doesn’t tell us what, if any, consequences followed for this irresponsible professor.

2 thoughts on “Updates from Planet Academia

  1. I once heard the following explanation for awarding all students in a class an A: “In my class, the educational process is a collective endeavor. I grade the class as a whole and then give the same grade to each member.”

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