Grade Reform, Law Professors, Law Schools, Screw-Ups

Professor Discovers 2010 Grading Errors; Mistake Is Fixed in April 2011

You know, given the fact that most law school professors act like they are doing you a favor by grading your exams, it’s a wonder this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often. Of course, since it doesn’t happen more often, this is a noteworthy occurrence.

A criminal law professor out in California figured out there were grading errors from her fall semester course. She figured this out last week. But the errors were so significant that it changed the class rank of some students.

Yeah, so if you got dinged from a summer associate position because your first semester grades were too low, or if perhaps you didn’t even apply for some positions because you didn’t meet a percentile cut-off, whoops, your professor might have screwed up.

Which law school needs to examine its motives?

The school is the University of San Diego School of Law. So we’re talking about a school where class rank matters to the people looking to go from USD Law into the most prestigious law firms. But for some 1Ls, that class rank was screwed up, during the crucial window for 1L summer hiring.

Here’s the explanatory letter from professor Jean Ramirez:

Dear Sections D & E,

Yesterday, I discovered that the fall 2010 Criminal Law grades were inaccurate due to a data entry error. As you know, the midterm exam was supposed to constitute 25% of the final grade and the final exam 75% of the final grade. Unfortunate mistakes in data entry reversed the intended weight of the exams.

The data has been correctly reentered into the law school’s grading program, and new grades have been posted. Many of you will have no grade change. Those of you who now have a higher grade will be elated, and those of you who now have a lower grade will be disappointed. Whether your grade is higher, lower, or the same, what is important here is that you receive the grade you earned. I am, however, truly sorry for any grief this situation causes any of you.

Understandably, some of you will be concerned about how a change in your grade may affect your overall academic status. You will be contacted by the Office for JD Student Affairs if a grade change affects your participation in the program of First Year Academic Supervision. If you would like to discuss how any grade change affects your academic standing in general, please contact [Redacted].

My sincerest apology to all of you,

Jean Ramirez
Professor of Law
University of San Diego

I’m not going to totally kill Professor Ramierez. Mistakes happen. It appears that she owned up to it and apologized; she really couldn’t do any more.

What’s troubling is that this highlights how random grading is, notwithstanding the fact that grades can make the difference between having a legal career or working at McDonald’s for some of the law students out there right now. Quite possibly, lives have been affected because of a data entry error — yet the entire process is so nebulous that people didn’t fix it until months later. As one San Diego Law tipster told us, “The real damage is all those former C students who again didn’t apply to jobs, were rejected because of their GPA, or reevaluated law school after ‘bombing’ a final that they actually did well in.”

We feel for the affected San Diego Law students. Even if the grading snafu didn’t actually ruin anybody’s summer employment chances, the mere chance that it might have affected the situation has to be maddening.

But look on the bright side: at least they fixed the problem before 2L fall recruiting. That’s when permanent damage could have been done.

(hidden for your protection)

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