Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
The provost’s office would like to remind the faculty of two important issues regarding grades. These issues come up often in consultations by students with the Baruch College Ombuds, Prof. Mindy Engle-Friedman, who suggests that there are effective ways of heading off many disputes and achieving fairness: course requirements should be spelled out on the syllabus and grades need to be calculated following that rubric; all changes to the grading scheme should be announced/documented electronically, via blackboard or email to all students in the class.
1. Members of the faculty must tell students from the beginning of the course if there will be a restriction as to the number of specific letter grades (A's, B's, etc.) to be earned in the class and how any curve will work.
Students must know in advance that even if they achieve grades that might earn them an A in other courses (e.g., 94%) that grade might not earn them a course grade in the A range in a particular class. The grade restrictions should be spelled out in a written document so that there is transparency about how the final letter grade in the course was achieved. Likewise, if a curve is to be used on an exam or other graded work, students need to be apprised of that curve as early as possible and in written form.
2. Members of the faculty who would like to change the percentage that each course requirement contributes to the final grade should do so in written form such as an email to the entire class or via Blackboard as an announcement or an update: any such change needs to be made in writing.
A written document provides clarity for the students as to how their grade will be calculated, and it documents any changes that a professor decides to make. Describing changes in the grading structure by voice in class is insufficient. Students are permitted a certain number of excused absences and may be unaware of such changes if they are announced only in class. Therefore, these changes need to be memorialized in writing. Grade disputes will be resolved by looking at the most recent documentation faculty provide to students. Without written documentation of changes, the most recent document (the syllabus) will be understood as a “contract.”
Once again, these guidelines aim to create a fair environment for our students and to protect members of the faculty from unnecessary disputes about grades.
Associate Provost and Assistant Vice President
Baruch College, CUNY
646-660-6504 (phone); 646-660-6531 (fax)