We’ve done a lot of reports on schools that have instituted grade reform to make it easier on their students. But at DePaul College of Law, the administration decided to strictly enforce its curve as a way of combating wanton grade inflation.
Apparently not all of the professors were on the same page. Professor Howard Rubin taught Legal Profession this past spring and graded the class the way he always has. But his grades were curve-busting, and the administration asked him to lower those grades to match the school’s curve.
Professor Rubin refused to do this — and, well, now we’ve got emails…
Professor Rubin emailed his entire Legal Profession class, letting them know that the administration was putting the screws to their grades:
Legal Profession Students:
Several of you have contacted me concerning your grades. On Tuesday, June 1, 2010, I submitted all the grades for students in the day and evening sections of Legal Profession. I had calculated the grades using the same methodology I have used for the five years I have been teaching the course. For five years there has been the same upper class large section grade curve. I have used it as a guideline and have awarded grades at a positive variance from that curve every semester. There has never been a complaint from any source. While the curve has always been titled “mandatory” it has been advisory in application.
This spring semester Dean Greenberger dictated that the curve would now be strictly enforced. Your grades, exhibiting an upward variation from the curve as in prior years, were rejected by Dean Greenberger. He demanded and I refused to lower your grades.
Dean Greenberger, meet “The Bus.” The driver is Professor Rubin, and you are under it.
The result was that Dean Greenberger re-graded the class and submitted his grades. The attached list of student anonymous numbers contains those who received a lower grade than I awarded. Any student wishing to discuss the grade I gave them is welcome to contact me. If you are on the list and want to discuss your grade please contact Dean Greenberger. You may also wish to consider filing a grade challenge (see Law Student Handbook 7.12) and you will receive my full support. Section 7.12 calls for you to file your challenge with the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs. Dean White was involved in changing these grades and reports to Dean Greenberger. You may want to file a copy with Dean Warren Wolfson.
I regret this situation and can assure you I attempted to work it out with Dean Greenberger to no avail.
Wow. Rarely do you see a law school professor calling out a colleague in front of his entire class.
Rubin did not respond to our request for further comment.
But the Associate Dean of Faculty, Steven Greenberger, did step up to give the other side of the story. Greenberger downplays the dispute:
I am surprised that this story is of general interest. I am out of the country presently but can briefly say that DePaul has had a mandatory curve for many years. Professor Rubin submitted grades that did not comply with the curve. He was asked to revise his grades and refused. He did, however, supply the raw scores upon which his grades were based. Those raw scores were used, without alteration, to assign grades in conformance with the curve. This was merely a recalculation; no additional assessment was performed. The students thus received the grades they earned as mandated by the curve.
The students can’t be happy that their grades will be adjusted downward. But there’s hardly a point to having a curve if professors are going to ignore it whenever they please. Students shouldn’t be penalized (or benefited) in class rank against their classmates based on whether or not their professors happen to care about the curve.
Are DePaul students who are not in professor Rubin’s Legal Profession class happy with this outcome?