08 January 2011

Their grades were too... high?

Now this is just freakin’ weird.

A University of Alberta math professor has been asked to resign following a dispute that arose after grades he assigned were changed by the department without his consultation.

Mikhail Kovalyov, a tenured professor who has taught at the university for more than two decades, said he was asked to resign last November following a series of e-mails he sent to his students and copied to department officials, admonishing the department for changing the grades he had submit at the end of the winter 2010 term for a first-year math course.

In the e-mails, Kovalyov encouraged students to appeal the process and called the department’s actions a “crime of forgery.”

I can see how that would cheese an administrator off. But why were the grades being changed in the first place? This isn’t at all clear. There is a definite lack of transparency.

Kovalyov said that throughout his lengthy career at the post-secondary institution, he didn’t have any problems with his grading until about two or three years ago when he began receiving e-mails from the department’s faculty service officer, David McNeilly, suggesting lower grades for the classes he was teaching.

Kovalyov said that he was always careful to follow the university’s suggested grade distribution guidelines, and replied saying as much. That back and forth continued at the end of each semester until the end of the winter 2010 term, after he had submit grades for a first-year math course and a 300 level course. ...

He was asked again by McNeilly to lower the grades, Kovalyov said, despite the fact that the average he assigned of 2.16 was lower than the university’s suggested average of 2.6 on a 4.0 scale, with six per cent failing. ...

Soon after, without his consultation, Kovalyov learned the grades were lowered, from a 2.16 average to 1.79.

This is a new one on me. Assigning grades is one of the few prerogatives faculty have that is quite difficult to override. I have never heard of grades being changed for an entire class by an administrator. Indeed, I am trying to think about what possible justification there could be for this action ever. One thing might be evidence that the instructor hadn’t followed his own syllabus for the entire class, resulting in an inflated grade. Because the syllabus is usually held as a legalistic contractual document, I could see a case for it if the instructor didn’t follow that.

But other than that, I am coming up empty.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am surprised that the complaint from the administration was that the grades were too high. I always thought that the pressure on professors was to inflate the grades, so that more students would graduate, and not the other way around.