Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
As another school year is kicking off on college campuses around the country, it might be a good time to look back at one of the strangest stories of the 2009-10 academic year.
It involves a thorny issue--grading--that always is front and center at colleges and universities.
A professor at Louisiana State University was removed last April from teaching an introductory biology class because of student complaints about her strict grading policy.
Dominique G. Homberger was removed from the course, and administrators raised student grades.
This kind of "inmates running the asylum" mentality appears to be increasingly common in higher education. I've heard about a case where a university instructor, who did not have tenure, was fired partly because of complaints that he was a tough grader.
But the LSU case shows that even tenured professors, such as Homberger, can run afoul of administrators when students squawk loud enough about grades.
Sources at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) tell Legal Schnauzer that President Carol Garrison sent word to faculty members that "student satisfaction" would be a key element in teacher evaluations.
That, of course, generates this question: Who is most likely to produce student satisfaction--(a) the teacher who gives high grades but maybe imparts little knowledge, or: (b) the teacher who is a tough grader but actually teaches students something?
At UAB, it apparently is better to be teacher "a." And the same now seems to hold true at LSU.
Homberger maintained her position and faculty status at LSU, but her removal from the course raised many eyebrows in higher education. Reports Scott Jaschik, at insidehighered.com:
To Homberger and her supporters, the university's action has violated principles of academic freedom and weakened the faculty.
"This is terrible. It undercuts all of what we do," said Brooks Ellwood, president of the LSU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, and the Robey H. Clark Distinguished Professor of Geology. "If you are a non-tenured professor at this university, you have to think very seriously about whether you are going to fail too many students for the administration to tolerate."