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

Top Law School Finally Commits To Getting Grades In On Time; Will Fine Late-Grading Faculty

How long does it take to do this anyway?

I’ve repeatedly said that law school faculty members need to do a better job of taking exams as seriously as their students. Every semester, we have a spate of stories about law professors who are too lazy to write novel exams for their students. And then, weeks later, we have to start doing stories about professors who are too lazy to grade their exams in a timely manner.

And you’ll note that I don’t think we’ve done a story on a law school giving anybody a refund because it couldn’t get its act together to provide deliverables to students.

Well, one law school seems to be willing to hold their faculty to a standard of basic competence. And they’re doing it the only way that it can be done. The school is willing to punish faculty — publicly — for late submission of grades….

In a letter to students, Dean David Schizer of Columbia Law School informed students that his faculty would now be held accountable for the timely reporting of student grades. Schizer said that after a lot of consideration, the Columbia Law faculty agreed to report fall semester grades no later than the Friday before Martin Luther King Day, and spring semester grades no later than June 15th (except, of course, for graduating students).

But saying that they have a standard means nothing unless there is a penalty for non-compliant faculty. From the email:

Faculty who do not comply will be included on a list circulated to the faculty and students, and they will also be fined. I realize that there will still be some situations when, for extenuating circumstances, grades will be late, but my hope is those situations will be rare.


You can click through to the next page to read Dean Schizer’s full email.

I think this could work. I think that circulating a list showing which faculty members were too lazy or too preoccupied to perform an essential job function like grading exams will motivate a lot of people to do their freaking jobs. I don’t think faculty want to be embarrassed in front of all of their students and colleagues, and (ahem) potentially online as well. I think this is a good effort by Columbia to get their faculty to do something that they’re already supposed to be doing.

Shouldn’t every school follow Columbia’s lead? Why wouldn’t, say, NYU Law School also demand that faculty submit grades in a timely fashion, on pain of public humiliation? Why shouldn’t Texas fine faculty who can’t be bothered to get grades in on time? Students need their grades to get jobs, so shouldn’t every law school at least try to give them those grades on time?

Of course, there will always be some faculty members who are immune to shame and don’t care about a nominal fine. But if the list of late offenders is made public, at least students have the opportunity to avoid the professors who don’t care enough to do their jobs.

Check out Dean Schizer’s email on the full page. Perhaps it can serve as a model for deans at other schools contemplating similar moves?

(hidden for your protection)

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