Grade Reform, Law Professors, Law Schools, Ridiculousness, Texas

Fight the Power: Is There a Way Around the Curve?

We get it, law students: the curve sucks. Because the law school curve affects important things like class rank, law review eligibility, and employment opportunities, it can make or break your life. And in a world where the legal market is still recovering from circling the drain, your grades mean more than they ever did in the past.

While the curve reflects some amount of fairness for larger classes, what happens to the students in smaller classes? You’d think that if everyone in a seminar class kicked ass on the final, the school would allow the professor some leeway with the mandatory curve. That seems like it would be fair, right? It’s a load of bull if the school refuses to step away from the curve in this kind of a situation.

And speaking of bull, apparently if you mess with one in Texas, you’ll get the horns (or at least be called a crybaby). A student at the University of Texas School of Law is trying — albeit unsuccessfully — to fight the powers that be….

At UT Law, the curve is set around a 3.30, but small seminars are “automatically exempt” from the it. And by “automatically exempt,” the school means that a professor may request an exception, and the administration, not the professor, will control the extent of any exception granted.

Keeping that fact in mind, when our tipster, a UT Law student, received an email from his professor about one of these small-class exceptions, he went on the warpath. Our tipster has contacted the new and old deans of academic affairs, but no one will do anything to assist him. Here’s a copy of the professorial email in question:

Dear Students,

I have submitted the grades to the Student Affairs Office, which will post them shortly.

The exam answers were very strong — excellent really. The scoring produced a very narrow distribution. For that reason, and because the class was small, I requested a deviation from the requirement of adhering to the curve, but was permitted only a small departure.

I understand the reasons for this and do not mean to be critical. The Law School has a mandatory curve for a good reason–to prevent the “Lake Wobegone effect” (“all the children are above average”) from taking over. But, unfortunately, the curve occasionally generates unwarranted results in small classes, which as a statistical matter must often contain groups whose performance will depart significantly from the norm.

I wound up having to draw arbitrary lines between grades and to set all the grades lower than, in my judgment, your performance warranted. I was very impressed by the quality of the exam answers, as I said.

Your exams will be available for pick-up in Room 3.108 from [Redacted] Monday-Thursday. She also has the raw score and grade distribution for the class.

Best wishes,

Prof. [Redacted]

Our tipster is flaming mad because he claims that the University of Texas School of Law has allowed “arbitrarily” assigned grades. Is this as ridiculous as our tipster thinks it is?

Or is it more ridiculous that our tipster thinks that he can get around the curve by stomping his feet and throwing a tantrum about it? Let us know what you think in our poll.

Should small law school classes be completely exempt from the curve?

  • Yes. Everyone deserves an A, especially me! (52%, 527 Votes)
  • No. Shut up and take your B+ like a man. (48%, 484 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,010

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Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of the University of Texas School of Law

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