Grade Reform, Law Professors, Law School Deans, Law Schools

Are Some NYU Law Professors Allowed to Submit Grades Later Than Others?

We are well into February, and there are still law students who haven’t received all of their grades from first semester.

Why? I have no earthly idea. We’ve talked about this problem before: we get that professors really hate spending the time it takes to grade a bunch of exams. It’s boring. It’s arbitrary. It’s annoying to know that no matter how “fairly” you grade, you’ll have at least a few students who can’t handle the truth, waiting in your office to ambush you.

But it’s also your job. It’s your duty, owed to the students who are ruining themselves financially to help pay your salary, to provide them with grades in timely fashion. This is especially true in law school. And it’s especially true in a crappy economy. Law school grades matter, and it’s just cruel to keep students in the dark about them.

Now, if I show you a hundred professors who handed in grades late, you’ll hear a hundred different excuses about why grades were delayed: “I was preparing for a conference,” “My Commodore 64 broke down,” “I was having personal problems” — whatever. We get it; sometimes life intervenes and prevents professors from doing their jobs.

But at NYU Law School, some students are alleging that professorial favoritism is allowing some professors to turn in their grades much later than others…

We are well into February, and some students at NYU Law still haven’t received their grades. A tipster reports that students in two courses, Environmental Law and Property, are still waiting to learn about their performance — even though the “final deadline” for grades was over three weeks ago.

But it’s not just any Environmental Law class, and not just any Property class. Our tipster reports that the outstanding grades are from Dean Richard L. Revesz’s Environmental Law class. The delinquent Property Law class is taught by Vicki L. Been, who is Dean Revesz’s wife.

Obviously, the appearance that the Dean and his wife are receiving special treatment when it comes to handing in grades is not a good one. But it is just an appearance. A spokesperson for NYU Law declined to comment on the grading situation when contacted by ATL, and we don’t how many (if any) other NYU Law professors are this late with submitting their grades.

And it’s worth noting that the complaints we’ve heard come from students at NYU, not other NYU Law School faculty. If Dean Revesz and Professor Been are getting special treatment, we’d expect other NYU professors to be just as angry as anybody else.

Still, there is really one simple solution to all of this that would avoid any actual or apparent impropriety: GRADE THE EXAMS. They wouldn’t let students take an unexplained extra three weeks to take the test, so why should professors get three post-deadline weeks to grade the things? Is it really that hard to make grading exams a priority among your faculty? They lecture for a few hours a week. They get their summers off, plus a Christmas vacation that’s longer than any working man you know. Sometime between publishing, writing their books, getting on television, and doing whatever it is that professors do for a living (I’m so jealous I think I’m choking on it), can’t they fit in some time to grade papers?

I don’t really care if “grading” the exams involves throwing them down a flight of stairs or making your teenage son do it — just get it done already. Invite your friends, open a box of wine, and make it a party. Just make some arbitrary decisions and communicate them to the students.

Your students need this. For many of them, their entire sense of self-worth is wrapped up in their law school GPA. Let them (and their potential employers) have this information as soon as possible. Then you can go back to your awesome, professorial lives.

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