Grade Reform, Law School Deans, Law Schools

Law School ‘Recalls’ Grades, Because Apparently They Were Too Low

Would you like to go to law school, receive your grades, be sad, and then have your administration turn around and “recall” them because maybe they weren’t high enough? I mean, sure, you’d be annoyed that grades were late and that they teased you with something and then took it away… but if the end result was that your professors were not fully aware of opportunities to inflate your grades, you’d be willing to wait for everybody to take another look.

That’s what seems to be happening at a law school out west. The 2Ls and 3Ls received their grades over the long weekend. But almost immediately, the administration sent out word to disregard the grades because not all of the professors were aware of the opportunity to adjust the curve upwards. Would that make you happy?

Or, would you just like your grades now?

It was a fun Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend over at BYU Law School. First 2Ls and 3Ls got their grades, then they did not. Apparently, the school had a little trouble with the curve. Here’s the message the dean of students sent regarding the grade recall:

Dear 2L and 3L Students,

We sincerely apologize but we need to recall the grades you received on Friday. For the reasons explained below, our mistake should not result in your receiving a lower grade but it may impact your class rank. Thus, we ask that you refrain from using the grades or rank you received on Friday until we have an opportunity to review the grades.

Here is the source of the problem. As you are aware, our Policies and Procedures (Section III.C.2.b) provide that faculty may depart upwards from our regular 3.3 median in certain classes where the median GPA of the students enrolled is 3.4 or higher. Unfortunately, we have learned that, with respect to some courses where the median GPA of the students enrolled was higher than 3.4, the faculty teaching the course were not notified of the opportunity to use a higher median in curving their class.

We need to recall the grades so that all faculty teaching a class where the median GPA of the students enrolled was higher than 3.4 will have an opportunity to grade the class with a higher median if they so choose. Once faculty are given this opportunity, it may result in some grades being increased. We do not foresee any grade being decreased. Because only some grades are likely to change, there may be changes in class rank. Thus, until we notify you that all grades have been appropriately calculated under our Policies and Procedures, we ask that you not rely on the grades or class rank you received on Friday. We will work diligently to insure this is done quickly.

We again apologize for this error and for the stress and uncertainty which it causes. Thanks in advance for your patient understanding.

I hope nothing in this email disrupts your fun plans for the long weekend.

That’s a pretty interesting policy. You can read the pertinent section in full on the next page. Essentially, if the students in the class have good grades, BYU professors are authorized to inflate the curve of their class. That seems like a good deal if you can get it.

I emailed with BYU Law School Dean Jim Rasband, and he disagreed with my characterization that this was a grade inflation option for BYU faculty. Specifically, I wrote: “If the starting grades for the class are high, according to these guidelines, the faculty are allowed to inflate the grades of the class above the normal 3.3 median standard.” Dean Rasband called my statement “almost entirely incorrect,” and then referred me back to the actual rule. Again, the rule is reprinted on the next page, so you can judge for yourself if BYU is inflating the grades of students in classes with other high-performing students, or if the school is doing something else that doesn’t involve the word “inflate.”

In any event, I would imagine the policy would really annoy students who individually do well, but are not lucky enough to be in a class full of other good students. But our tipster says that this is a wise policy from BYU Law:

[This policy], IMO, makes total sense. Everyone know who does well, and people would be trying to cherrypick classes if they knew there were too many gunners in a class they have.

I suppose that if BYU is a school where people rock out first year and then try to pick classes filled with dumbasses for the remaining two years, this policy makes a little bit of sense. It’s kind of like inflating a gymnast’s score based on the degree of difficulty of her routine. I just wonder if employers know that some people who get good grades at BYU Law are buoyed by a curve that can be adjusted upward from a 3.3 depending on the circumstances.

Of course, at this point, people at BYU Law just want to know what they got. From our tipster again:

So the grades we waited 6 weeks to receive were nullified…. To date, still not re-released, and no ETA as to when they will be.

Quite a system they’ve got going out there. Check out the next page for the grading rules at BYU Law….

(hidden for your protection)

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