Grade Expectations: Students Appeal to Professors For Higher Marks


Published: April 2, 2009

You’re sitting at your desk, half-confident, half-anxious, awaiting the return of your midterm, unsure of whether this grade will be the death sentence for your GPA or the boost you’ve needed all semester. Your professor hands back your paper with a big, red “C” at the bottom of the last page. Your heart falls and splatters at the bottom of your stomach like an egg to cement. You worked so hard. You put in so many hours. It must be the professor’s fault. You immediately pick apart the comments, ready to bust into your professor’s office and give the holder of the mighty red pen a piece of your mind.

At Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), this is an experience that many students may encounter at one point or another during their undergraduate career. At FCLC, there seems to be a trend of students refusing to settle for the “C” and seeking out their professors to dispute the grade.

“I tried to argue a grade with a professor, and it didn’t work because he didn’t understand my paper,” said Patrice Kugler, FCLC ’11. “But after rewriting it, I did move from a B to a B+.”

“I got a B- on a philosophy paper… I asked my classmates and read over their essays to compare it. Though they got higher grades on the paper than I did, their papers were shorter and skimmed the surface of the readings. I went back to my professor and asked him to re-evaluate it,” said Sam Wong, FCLC ’09.

William Jaworski, associate professor of philosophy at FCLC, has been approached by students that want an explanation for their grade.

“I’ve had students come to ask for clarification about a grade they’ve gotten… In some of these cases, the student thought—at least initially—that the grade should have been higher but understood by the end of the conversation why a higher grade was not warranted. Only once was a student unconvinced,” Jaworski said.

Students and faculty have different views as to why students argue their grades.

“Students who come to my office to discuss grades are usually either frustrated, angry or nervous,” said Cecilia Petit-Hall, assistant dean of academic advising for seniors and adjunct assistant professor of English at FCLC.

According to Petit-Hall, students often ask if they can take their course as a pass/fail and want to know how that would look on their transcript when they apply to graduate school.

“Grades are essentially evidence as to how students have performed academically, so there’s always going to be an emotional response,” Petit-Hall said.

“This college looks at me as a consumer,” said Yelena Ambartsumian, FCLC ’10. “So in turn, I should look at the school as an institution that provides a service. If I complete all of my work, participate in class discussions and attend my classes, then I deserve an A. We live in a capitalist, consumerist country. The sooner colleges admit that they are businesses, the better.”

Adding additional pressure to the already stress-inducing institution of grades, students have been hearing rumors of a new “rule” that requires every professor’s class average to be a “C.” When asked about this supposed “C-average” rule, Robert Moniot, associate dean at FCLC, set the record straight.

“There has been no change in grade policy since I have been associate dean. As far as I know, there hasn’t been any change in the policy any number of years before that,” Moniot said.

Moniot pointed out that the faculty handbook states, “While circumstances may vary, a consistent pattern of giving predominantly very high grades will be viewed with concern. Grade inflation hurts students by undermining the University’s reputation with graduate and professional schools.”