Constitutional Law, Law Professors, Law Schools, Screw-Ups

Fordham Con Law Clusterbleep

Here are some subject lines on emails currently floating around in my inbox:

“Unfair Grading Policy at Fordham Law (due to Professor negligence!)”

“Constitutional Law Exam at Fordham Law School (One wrong move after another by the Administration)”

“Fordham Law Fiasco”

Here’s a text message I received yesterday:

“Elie, how can you write about the Michigan douchenozzles when we’ve got a professor who screwed up the basic integrity of our law school transcripts?”

Without reading any of these emails, what would you guess happened? I’d say that a constitutional law professor at Fordham School of Law got lazy when it came time to write exams, made a mistake that gave one group of students an unfair advantage, and when it was revealed, the administration came up with a solution that most students feel is unfair.

That’s what I would guess. But I could be wrong. I’m not an expert or anything, I’m just a guy who has gotten very used to the way professors treat law school exams. Let’s read the emails to find out what happened….

Two weeks ago, we called out Fordham Law for being late with submitting grades to students. But maybe grading exams quickly and fairly is a little too much to ask at Fordham right now. It seems like one professor there is still stuck on administering a fair exam. From a tipster:

Fordham Law had a Constitutional Law professor [Robert Kaczorowski] that copied multiple choice questions from an old test from another professor that had been made public. This in turn allowed several students to have previously studied the exact answers that were required. The school responded by offering the students the chance to take the test again and pick the better of the two grades. After further complaints they allowed students to instead choose to take the average of their other classes from this past semester and make that their grade in Constitutional Law. This is a curved class that is required for all students at the school.

I guess I’ll have to make this point again: Dear Law Professors, DO NOT COPY OFF OF OTHER PEOPLE’S TESTS! Is that really such a hard lesson? I expect to only have to tell this to my baby once. If I have to do it more than once, it’ll mean he’s a lazy bastard with moral failings. WRITE YOUR OWN EXAM.

It’s not like it was a minor copy-and-paste job. Reports indicate that as many as 15 of 25 multiple choice questions were cribbed from a previous year’s Con Law exam.

Once we’re in a world where the lazy professor has used an old exam, we’re always in the bad situation where some people had an unfair advantage over others and there’s no easy way for the administration to make things right. But here, the Fordham administration seems to be making things worse and more complicated.

In case you didn’t quite catch the “solution” offered by the school that our tipster explained, here’s how the Fordham Record puts it:

To address the mistake, Academic Affairs decided to grade both the original exam and the optional make-up exam on separate curves. Students could either be graded on the original exam, on a curve with only the students declining the option make-up, or they could take the make-up and be graded on a curve with only the students who took the second exam. To eliminate perceived or actual unfairness in this scheme, the school implemented another safety net. Every student in the class will receive either the grade from the exam or the grade equivalent to the weighted average of their other fall semester classes, whichever is higher.

The law school’s alternative grading scheme—which effectively eliminates the curve for the effected class—has been criticized by students both in the class and those in other Con Law sections.

You see what happens, Larry?

Look, it seems to me that in this situation you just have to throw out the initial exam entirely, and force everybody to take a make up exam.

After this Record report, and a bunch of other complaints from students, Fordham changed course again last night. Now, they’re basically throwing the whole Con Law grade out of the window. Here’s part of the letter students received from Vice Dean Shelia Foster:

Because of the conditions under which this course has been graded, it is not possible to adhere to the mandatory curve for your class. In addition to being offered the above option, half of the exam was invalidated and not every student was graded on the same essay problem. This has made applying a uniform grading scheme and curve impossible in this course. Consequently, your Constitutional Law grade will appear on your transcript but will not be computed into your grade point average (either for the semester or cumulative).

We (the administration) understand that this is not ideal, and may even seem unfair, from your perspective. However, we have sought to balance the equities involved, including the fact that other Constitutional Law sections are obligated under our rules to adhere to the mandatory curve.

What. The. Hell??? Do you mean to tell me there are people at Fordham who have taken TWO Con Law tests to receive ZERO Con Law grades? That doesn’t just “seem” unfair, it makes no freaking sense.

Putting the grade on the transcript seems to be Fordham’s way of making it look like the school didn’t massively screw up, while putting the onus on the students to explain to prospective employers and judges why their grades DON’T MATCH their GPAs. It’s a classic kind of academic response that acts like people want their grades for pride’s sake, not understanding that they need them to get jobs.

We reached out to Dean Foster. (I wanted my entire “media inquiry” to be, “My name is Elie and I write for Above the Law. WTF? Are you guys freaking serious?” But I refrained.) Dean Foster confirmed that this is the plan the law school is going with. You can see the full email to students on the next page.

At this point, there is only one “equitable” solution here. The administration needs to send Professor Kaczorowski an email saying, “Your paychecks will appear in the mail, but will not be computed into your bank balance (either via direct deposit or when cashed) for the following semester.”

(hidden for your protection)

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