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

Would You Like To See The Grades Of All Your Classmates? Then You Should Have Gone To This Top Law School!

Now that we’re done yelling at all the law professors in America who couldn’t bother to submit grades for their classes in a timely manner, it’s time for our other semi-annual tradition of covering total grading screw-ups by esteemed legal academics. Exam period isn’t truly over until at least one professor adds to the misery of current law students in some odd way.

The screw-up in this instant case is a doozy. We’re looking at a large 1L class, a massive administrative failure, and a loss of privacy for the students.

You know your screw-up is noteworthy when the official administrative “solution” to the problem is “wait, don’t read that email…”

Professor Richard Friedman teaches 1L Civil Procedure at Michigan. He gave the kids a final exam, graded the exam, and then submitted the grades from that exam.

Unfortunately, he submitted grades for the whole class to the whole class. In a very revealing Excel spreadsheet, Professor Friedman revealed everybody’s names and grades to everybody else in the Civil Procedure class. As one tipster put it, “Thanks, Dick, for letting everybody know who got the lowest grades in the class.”

Who needs to post grades on Facebook when you have professors like this? I thought this kind of stuff only happened in Texas.

According to some tipsters, there might have been a lack of appreciation of the importance in testing and grading students. One tipster says that Friedman said to the class that he hadn’t even finished writing the exam two days before it was to be administered.

This would be a bad situation if it happened to any class, but doing this to 1Ls in a basic class like Civ Pro seems especially cruel. They’re new to the law school experience and having their grades plastered all over the school is embarrassing for a lot of people. We won’t compound the mistake by republishing the names and grades here (admissions data is more juicy than 1L Civ Pro grades anyway), but in a class of almost 90 people, five unhappy souls managed to achieve the lowest grade on the scale (a C+) — and now everybody in the class knows who those people are. CHECK YOU FERPA?

We reached out to Professor Friedman. He didn’t respond to our request for comment, but an administrator did send us the email students received from the Dean of Student Affairs. In the excerpt below, you can see the school’s “please don’t look” solution:

I have one important request: out of respect for your classmates’ privacy, please delete Professor Friedman’s message immediately. If by chance you have not yet looked at the part of the message that contains the grade information – including your own – please do not. The Office of Student Records staff has just posted the grades for this class on Wolverine Access.

You can read the full email, replete with apologies, on the next page.

But of course, people did look, and some people found that their exam grades didn’t match their final class grades. It turns out that blind grading isn’t so “blind” when the professors can go back and bump people for class participation. From a tipster:

There were various discrepancies between exam grade and final grade, likely due to class participation, which was (allegedly) arbitrary. Also, apparently the order had been messed with, with no corresponding change in numbers…

What is most disconcerting about this, for me, is that we supposedly use “blind” grading. I was under the impression that professors, if they wanted to factor in class participation, provided a list to the registrar of everyone they wanted to bump up or down. Without looking at the exam breakdown. Apparently not.

My experience with blind grading was that the professor always knew the exam score of the person before they started messing around with class participation in the classes where that kind of thing mattered. (Class participation was never my strong suit, what with the requirement that you had to actually be in class to participate in the Socratic abuse.) Most of my classes didn’t have a participation component, but I always assumed the classes that had it put it there so that professors could make the grades “look right” after a set of exams.

Of course, that presupposes that professors actually give a damn about the grades they’re giving out. That might be naïve.

Check out the administrative email on the next page. Kids that got a C+, don’t say I never did anything for you…

(hidden for your protection)

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