As a new journalism professor at American University, Alicia Shepard wasn’t prepared for students demanding A’s.
During the spring semester, they showed up at my office to insist I reread their papers and boost their grades. They asked to retake tests they hadn’t done well on. They bombarded me with e-mails questioning grades. More harassed me to change their final grade.
. .. . My colleague Wendy Swallow told me about one student who had managed to sour her Christmas break one year. Despite gaining entry into AU’s honors program, the student missed assignments in Swallow’s newswriting class and slept through her midterm. Slept through her midterm! Then she begged for lenience.”I let her take it again for a reduced grade,” Swallow says, “but with the warning that if she skipped more classes or missed more deadlines, the midterm grade would revert to the F she earned by missing it. She then skipped the last three classes of the semester and turned in all her remaining assignments late. She even showed up late for her final.”
Swallow gave the student a C-minus, which meant she was booted out of the honors program. The student was shocked. She called Swallow at home hysterical about being dropped from the program. To Swallow, the C-minus was a gift. To the student, an undeserved lump of Christmas coal.
. . . .John Watson, who teaches journalism ethics and communications law at American, has noticed another phenomenon: Many students, he says, believe that simply working hard — though not necessarily doing excellent work — entitles them to an A. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a student dispute a grade, not on the basis of in-class performance,” says Watson, “but on the basis of how hard they tried.”
Sometimes, Mommy or Daddy complains. They’re paying tuition, and they expect A’s for their money.
On brightMystery, the world’s most patient math professor shares his exchange of e-mails with the mother of a student who didn’t want to learn how to solve problems. That didn’t fit his “learning style.”