Zoologist Steven Aird is out of a job. He was denied tenure as a biology professor at Norfolk State, a historically black university in Virginia, for flunking too many students. In some classes, he gave D’s and F’s to 90 percent of students. Inside Higher Education reports:
Aird believes most of his students could succeed, but have no incentive to work as hard as they need to when the administration makes clear they can pass regardless.
â€œShow me how lowering the bar has ever helped anyone,â€ Aird said in an interview.
Many Norfolk State students are poorly prepared for college and many work 30 or 40 hours a week, which makes it hard to attend classes and complete assignments. Although other professors back Aird’s claim that they’re pressured to pass at least 70 percent of students, Norfolk State graduates only 30 percent of students in six years.
Aird’s students are surprisingly supportive.
The detailed evaluations Aird does for his courses, turned over in summary form for this article, suggest a professor who is seen as a tough grader (too tough by some), but who wins fairly universal praise for his excitement about science, for being willing to meet students after class to help them, and providing extra help.
Aird believes 20 percent of NSU students are prepared for college, 20 percent aren’t capable of doing college work and the middle 60 percent could succeed if they knew they had to work hard and attend class consistently.
“If everyone here would tell students that â€˜you are either going to work or get out,â€™ they would work, and they would blossom,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™ve got to present a united front â€” high academic standards in all classes across the institution. Some students will bail, and we canâ€™t help those, but the ones who stay will realize that they arenâ€™t going to be given a diploma for nothing, and that their diploma means something.â€
The Virginia Pilot has more.