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Should students ever feel “entitled” to good grades, or to having class requirements adjusted for them?

Dear Student:

Comparing notes recently, we observed that a few of our students exhibit an entitlement mentality, as evidenced by messages such as these:

Do you or your classmates make statements like these? How do you feel about these messages?

Sincerely,

Several BYU Professors

Dear Professors:

I think that this “entitlement mentality” has become much more prevalent in recent years. I’ve had fellow students in my classes that seem to think that the world should work around them rather than vice-versa. My personal view is that this attitude is completely unacceptable, especially at a university level. Somewhere along the way, these people missed the fact that the world sets expectations and if they want to succeed they need to meet these expectations. An attempt to change expectations that apply to a large number of people shows selfishness, lack of discipline, and an inability to perform. When professors give in to these pleas for mercy, I think they are hindering the student’s growth and learning.

That said, I think most would agree that there are extenuating circumstances. If your grandma dies, you have a baby, or you go the hospital the night before an exam, then I definitely think the student should contact the professor to talk about what can be done. This contact should be made as soon as possible. Most of us are attending college not only to learn but also to open doors to future jobs. Students and professors should keep in mind that the corporate world will be largely unforgiving of someone who doesn’t meet expectations because they “had a hard week” or “just had too much to do,” especially given today’s job market. If you won’t meet the boss’s expectations, chances are that there are 12 people turning in applications who will.

One of the best things students can learn in college is how to handle heavy workloads, especially when things in life just don’t seem to go right. Learning this will probably help students to succeed more than a 4.0.

Sincerely,

Jeff Andersen

Dear Professors:

I have heard arguments like that all too frequently. Honestly, I think students can be so caught up in “making the grade” that they lose sight of what the university experience is all about, which is gaining an education (and, in the case of BYU, to share that education with others). To those who may think that I’m one of those people who just shows up to class, not doing any work, I maintain a 3.5 GPA in a very competitive major.

As a student, I understand how frustrating it can be to work hard on a project and not be recognized by my professor or TA for that work. However, if I really felt cheated out of a grade, I would hope to have a professor who would be willing to discuss the project or paper or test with me and help me understand why I received the grade I did. If I’m able to defend my work, I hope the professor would change my grade. At the very least, I would come out knowing how to improve my work for future projects or papers or tests. If I were a professor and a student approached me, civilly, about this kind of problem, I would like to think I would be willing to take some time and listen to him or her. But I’ve had my fair share of classes where I was more than satisfied to earn a B or even a C, and I was proud of that grade in those notoriously hard classes.

While I sometimes feel that professors make classes unnecessarily hard, I also realize that if I didn’t get the grade I wanted, I probably didn’t put the effort into learning the material and producing quality work. Since I realize that my grade reflects not only my effort, but also the quality of my work, I’m OK with that.

I enjoy learning. If people don’t want to learn, then what are they doing at a university? What are they doing at Brigham Young University? Do they feel that because they got into the university they deserve a diploma? Good work deserves a good grade; good effort is not always rewarded with a good grade.

Sincerely,

Joe Nibley

Dear Professors:

I have heard arguments like these by classmates, but I do not entirely agree with them. Some students have to study for ten hours to get an A on a midterm, while others can study one hour and get an A on the same midterm. However, as you have pointed out, some people who need to study ten hours to get an A feel entitled to an A after one hour of study. I am personally the student who has to study ten hours, and I have learned to accept that that is just how I am, and if I want an A I have to put in the time studying. I think the rationale is that if certain things are done, then an A is deserved. I feel that is somewhat true in a high school setting. However, when I got to BYU I learned that here it is about the results of your effort, not how much effort you put in.

I don’t agree with the comment that since a student had a big exam they should be able to turn in a paper for another class late without penalty. Procrastination is not a good excuse. Personally, I am taking 18 credits this semester so I have run into the problem of having a lot of midterms and papers due the same week. I have had to learn to plan ahead in order to get everything done. If a student is having trouble keeping up with all of his assignments, maybe he should consider taking fewer credits next semester. Whenever I hear of people who turn in large papers late without penalty, it makes me kind of mad because in the past I have stayed up throughout the night to get papers done. I think that the bottom line is that if a student really wanted to get a paper done even though she had a big test that week, she could have. I know some people who have that same attitude that for some reason they can turn papers in late without penalty, but I think it comes down to a matter of fairness to the students who did whatever was needed in order to get the paper turned in on time.

BYU Student

Comments

Mason Kearns &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 8:54 am

I think that a student IS entitled to an ‘A’ grade. A Class syllabus is a legally binding document. If a student complies with the stipulations of the syllabus, then he or she IS ENTITLED TO RECEIVE AN ‘A’ GRADE. If a school cannot deliver what it promises, a student will go elsewhere to get his or her education. Almost every institution in the united states runs on the principle of supply and demand. If supply is low and demand is high, then the price of a good or service increases. Adults do not attend a university with the intention of failing, but rather; to receive a quality education for the lowest price possible. In a similar manner, a college instructor is in low demand if he cannot give a quality education to his students. If such a professor provides no benefit as an instructor or as a researcher, the institution will release him, and choose a better one (also supply and demand).
A school with an excellent reputation (such as BYU) is in high demand, yet the price of tuition is held steady, because BYU is not a capitalist institution; it is run by the church. With such demand for her classes, and with so many bright students acing them, the university has adapted by making the course material more and more demanding. If demand for a school should drop (lets say because of an economic crisis) that school will change its prices, goods and services to be more appealing to a customer. If a bookstore sells books that are too expensive, students will buy their books online etc… In conclusion, a student is entiteled to an A just as he is entitled to an F, and an instructor that cannot abide by a syllabus or is unfair to his students will be avoided if possible. In any truly capitalistic institution, that instructor would not last long.

Cameron Walker &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 9:51 am

I do not agree with grades at all. They do not always accurately present how well a student performs in a class. Grades encourage cheating and take away from, as Joe Nibley puts it, gaining an education. If we are to truly get rid of this “entitlement mentality,” we must first provide some other alternative to the grading system which isn’t nearly as flawed as ours is. Last semester I took English 150 (writing and rhetoric). I feel I deserved an A. I read every time, spent so many hours on essays, and probably wanted the grade more than anyone else in the class. I always heard stories of how students had written their essays hours before the class which really upset me. Here I spent hours of my time in advance to “make the grade” while these students put it off to the last moment. In the end I got a B and many of these students got their A’s. I believe the result of this way my professor. I loved my professor. I have probably learned more from him than in any other English class I have ever taken; however, my grade did not reflect this. How is this system fair? I am not the only student in my section who felt this way. We are certain our professor’s grading was indeed more difficult than other section’s professors. How can we justify this? I know I should be thinking more about how my education has benefited, but it is hard to see this through my B. In this case, it was not a matter of following the grading on a syllabus. It was about how well my professor thought I did on an essay.

David Scott &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 10:04 am

Personally, I don’t want everybody to receive ‘A’ grades just because they can sit in a desk and breathe. By classifying average work as above average, it brings the value of my diploma down. As Mason points out, we do live in a very competitive world. If my education from BYU is called into question because anyone who gets in is “entitled” to an A-letter grade, then what in the world am I doing here.

Because we grow in a society that champions “rights” above all else, I think that we often get a little too carried away in thinking that we deserve something just because we think that it’s what we need, or we think that it’s what everybody else is getting. Another reason why we as students adopt this attitude (in my opinion) is that we are taught from a very early age that unless we get good grades in school we are going to fail in life. We begin to believe that D’s and F’s on our transcripts are like a criminal history and we are destined to fail if we accumulate too many. Too many of us think that our GPA will land us the big job our of college, and not the reputation of the school we attended.

Besides it’s easier to blame someone else for our own shortcomings.

Dallin S. Durfee &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 11:49 am

As a professor at BYU, many of these responses resonate with me. I agree that students should not feel “entitled” to a particular grade just because of their effort. Performance matters. But I can understand the frustration of students who feel they’ve been graded unfairly due to a poorly written syllabus or imprecise grading policy. As an undergraduate, I really felt that my lowest grades were in classes that I had done extremely well in. But because of poorly defined (or completely undefined) grading procedures, I suffered.

What is the solution to this problem? There is no complete solution – you are at your professors mercy, just like you will be at your graduate adviser’s mercy or your bosses mercy later in your life. But there are steps you can take to improve matters. Make sure you let your friends know which teachers don’t have fair procedures, avoid teachers that have that reputation, and make sure you do your course evaluations and include specific written comments – most professors pay attention to these, and the administration pays attention to them as well.

But most importantly, you should talk with the teacher. The fair thing to do is to talk to them and give them a chance to make changes before putting a black mark on their student evaluations. And, to be fair, you should listen to your teachers arguments as well – they may know things or have reasons for doing things that you don’t realize or appreciate. But for some teachers (you’ll know who) you may want to have this talk AFTER they have submitted your grades.

Many professors are just applying the same methods that they were taught under and are not aware of the problem. For example, as a student I was always frustrated that my grades on writing assignments were based not on my ability to apply the things I had been taught in the class, but on every bit of writing instruction I had received since the first grade. But when I became a professor, I didn’t know any other way to grade writing – that was all I had been exposed to. Thankfully, with the help of one of my colleagues and Beth Hedengren at BYU’s “writing across the curriculum,” I learned how to write a very specific grading rubric so that my students knew exactly what was expected. This gave me the ability to give an A to papers which effectively incorporated the specific writing skills that I had taught, whether the overall paper was well written or not.

Finally, I hope that students appreciate all of the resources that BYU has made available to the faculty to help them develop as teachers. While some people are born with a greater ability to teach than others, truly excellent teaching always requires effort and training. I don’t know of another university that works as closely with their faculty to improve their abilities to work effectively with students. And you get all of this for some of the lowest tuition in the nation.

Joey Pawlowski &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 12:08 pm

I fail to see a convincing argument in the position that mediocre effort “entitles” a student to an A grade. The problem is that any adjustment in the current grade distribution trends needs to be universally adapted across the entire campus. For example, an English course with a professor who subscribes to the “average effort = C” philosophy will churn out more Cs in a semester. Students in a synonymous class taught by another instructor will still be receiving As for whining about their effort-filled but quality-bereft papers. A transcript shows graduate programs, employers, etc. that the latter student was a more successful student, thus misrepresenting the education each student received.

If change needs to be effected, let it be done across the entire campus or at least uniformly within a college, rather than vigilante professors pursuing their own independent crusades against this admittedly discouraging trend.

Derek J. Steele &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

The way I see it, there are two aspects to grades. One is the final product, and the other is the effort attached to the product. Tests nowadays do not encourage learning, but encourage memorization. Memorization is not learning, it is not giving the student the opportunity to learn how to process the information. Many members of the church can recite scriptures learned in seminary or what have you, but do they actually know, and comprehend what the scriptures mean?
Also, how many professors, especially in history classes, have required essays, but then merely spot check to see if certain words are present, and once they meet the required amount, do not read the essay? The point of the essay is not to write down 3 or 4 key terms, but to illustrate how they relate to one another. If the grader, and sadly, in several of my classes in my time at BYU its been the TA, merely word checks, how will they know if the essay is relevant?
Students should be graded on individual performance, but many professors lack the discipline to grade on an individual basis. They stand behind their powerpoints, and throw facts up, and then have their TA’s grade the tests, and homework, and become disconnected from the average student in their class. I feel that as a student of BYU, I am entitled to earning a grade based on what the professor deems accurate, NOT what some undergrad or grad student tells said professor I have earned.
While there has to be a way of determining if the student has accurately learned the material, the solution is not to give tests where a student merely regurgitates information memorized from Wikipedia onto a sheet of paper. This is the flaw with tests, as I see it. There is no thinking, or learning how issues relate. The best professors I have had at BYU encourage the student to THINK, not to memorize. They TEACH, they dont recite or repeat facts found in any textbook via powerpoint, but they actually teach, they have discussions, they incite thinking and learning.
In assessing a student’s learning, which is what the letter grade is supposed to illustrate, professors need to learn how to gage what a student has learned, via the effort and finished product. Professors would be well-served to look at the finished product. Does the letter grade demonstrate the students knowledge of a subject, and time put in? Or does it merely report how a student did memorizing names, etc.
A letter grade of “C” used to stand for “average.” When a student does all the work, and demonstrated that they thought through the questions and used their mind to come to a conclusion, they should never receive less than a “C” in my opinion.
Overall, learning is done on an individual basis, and professors need to be more proactive in gaging what a student has learned on an individual basis. If a student can illustrate they know the material and can show the ability to THINK through a well-developed thesis and report, why do they need to illustrate they can MEMORIZE information via regurgitation tactics on a test?
The best professors here at BYU (such as Dr. Paul Kerry and Dr. Jay Buckley)agree to meet with and help students, and are easily accessible, illustrating that they care about the individual and the individuals grade, not just their personal research. The worst and less-effectivce professors hide behind powerpoints and become flustered when questions are asked.
BYU is a good school, and BYU does a lot for some of the lowest tuition in the nation. But, BYU also holds itself up as an institute of higher learning, one where students will leave with renewed faith in God, and a responsibility to use their education to better their lives, and the lives of others. But when an institution stops grading based on knowledge and the ability to think, and begins grading on the ability to memorize, it produces people who then struggle to reason through life. And, in the end, what the education a BYU student should be gaining is frustrated- that of learning to reason through faith to better the world, both individually and collectively.

H.A. Rouge &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 12:36 pm

I appreciate Dallin S. Durfee’s comment so much. Even that he is a professor he knows exactly what’s going on at BYU. As an international student I have come to realize that for some of us getting good grades in some classes is a little harder than for others. I had a teacher that from day one he said: “I just want to let you know that this class is hard for students but specially for internationals, because it is not your first language.” At the time I really appreciated the advice of “double your hard work for this class to get a good grade,” but with the time I realized that no matter what I did it was never going to be good enough for him. I felt that he was totally biased and made me feel hopeless. I needed a B in the class to get accepted in my major. At the end of the semester I got a B- even that I work so hard to get an A. I am not saying that I was entitled to get that grade, but I know how hard I worked and how frustrating it was to get just a B-. Some of my classmates saw the difference in the grading and scores and agreed with me. I have also seen teachers that are so willing to give any student a hand to help them improve their knowledge and grades. I think that their desire to actually help out makes some students more appreciative and make them improve their study skills.

I love BYU, it is such a great blessing to have great quality education for the tuition that we pay, but I do think there’s some measures that need to be taken in order to have a more fair grading.

Greg Holst &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

I’ve been a very successful student here at BYU for all of my undergraduate studies. I have a high GPA but I have felt that in order to earn certain grades, my “academic performance” has been entirely disconnected from my actual learning. I value the practice and understanding that comes from the combination of effective explanations and homework. These become skills as they are applied to solve real-life problems.

However, I have often exchanged learning a useful skill to just “earning the A.” What a GPA truly shows is a student’s ability to game the system or to understand what the professor wants, and to give that to them. As long as a professor is skilled at teaching and testing over the information that is most critical, (we trust professors a great deal in that respect) then we receive a good education. When the professors are biased or have lost their understanding of what is useful, their value of a professor is greatly diminished. I feel that here at BYU, I am paying experts to help me become a valuable tool for society by absorbing as much of their professional experience as one semester allows. For me, this is the most efficient way to learn. However, when a professor has a different agenda, an out-dated feel of the job market, or ignores modern trends in a particular field, then their professional experience is useless to me and I am forced to “get the A” and I relinquish what I could have learned.

I realize that it is my choice to “get the A” but for my goals it is necessary. My argument is: A certain GPA is in general only a good measure of a student’s ability to get grades and isn’t a good predictor of work ethic, knowledge, or skill. I have an incredible ability to regurgitate information on a test. I have chosen that course but I also feel that the grading system encourages that kind of effort and doesn’t reward more valuable skills. I believe that a portfolio or evidence of work is more valuable than any grading system or evaluation by any professor.

Oh, and I think BYU is the most incredible teaching institution in the world. I couldn’t say anything less about it.

BYU Student &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

Dear Professors,

“Entitlement” is one of those words you have to be careful with. I think that if a student does everything they possibly can to do well in a course, i.e. they go to class, take good notes, study hard, do all the readings, etc., their grades should reflect that. In other words, they are “entitled” to that good grade. However, a student may do all of this but just not get the material; if this is the case, the student shouldn’t get an A. A student in such a situation should probably get a B, which is still a good grade but shows that there was just something missing in the student’s performance on the subject matter. However, in most cases, problems like not understanding the material properly can be solved by meeting with the professor, the TA, and/or other students outside the classroom setting. If a student tries all of these things and is still not understanding the material, chances are that either the student should not be in the class or their fellow students are having the same problems, in which case the professors and the TAs need to change something about the way they teach the material.

A student who works really hard on a project but does it completely wrong, and didn’t think to talk to their professor, TA, or other students, shouldn’t get an A. Even though they put in a lot of effort, it was their own fault for not doing it correctly because they didn’t double check with their resources. On the other side, it is the responsibility of professors and TAs to make themselves as available as possible to the students, so that if students run into these problems they have someone to go to. If students have difficulty understanding the assignment in class and they can never get a hold of the professors or the TAs, then they should not be penalized. This does not necessarily mean that they should be given an A grade, but that the professor should alter the assignment, extend the deadline, or make himself more available to help his students. I once had a professor who constantly gave me low grades on everything I turned in; I always turned my assignments in on time and I met with the professor, TA, and fellow students to try to understand why I was getting such bad grades. I had a health condition at the time that did not always allow me to be in class; however, I always spoke to other students about what I missed and got the notes. I even modeled the thesis statements after the example papers the professor posted online (not plagiarizing, of course, but modeling them after the same pattern) to please the professor, but to no avail. I didn’t have any problems with understanding the subject matter; every time I was in class I understood things perfectly well. My test grades reflected my understanding of the subject. However, after doing all I possibly could I ended the semester with a C grade. I tell this story because since I understood the material well and did everything I could, I do not think that grade was the grade I deserved. I would have been perfectly happy to receive a B grade if the professor didn’t think I quite had the material down but I did everything I could.

I do not think that students should be given extensions on assignments because they failed to plan their workload accordingly with other classes. Failing to plan ahead is something that a college student should have learned when they got that first low grade on a late paper in junior high. However, there are occasionally extenuating circumstances or emergencies that arise, such as family or medical emergencies. Most professors are good about understanding when such circumstances arise.

Particularly here at BYU, there is a tendency for students here to freak out about getting an A- or a B+. Most people who come to this school were at the top of their class in high school, so they expect to be so here as well. But this is a completely different world. Since most of the students at BYU came from situations like this, we should all understand that it’s not going to be likely terribly likely that we graduate from BYU with a cumulative 4.00 GPA. Doing so will take not only the effort students are used to giving but much more hard work. This is a competitive school, and students need to work hard if they expect to get A grades. Professors should not divide the class by saying what percentage of A grades they would give out to the students; they should make it possible for everyone to get an A grade. But this A grade should be something to work hard for, because an A should not be easy to receive. If this were so, an A wouldn’t be a true measure of what someone learned, it would only be a measure of their effort.

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,
a BYU Student

Stephen Nuttall &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 3:24 pm

I have two things to say on this subject. The first is that if grades are meant to rank students then they are doing a poor job if an average student can get close to an ‘A’ average. The second is that professors do not rank students the same for the same effort, so the rankings are statistically invalid. Keep in mind I do not blame the professors for their differences in grading, since I believe it would be impossible and foolish to try to make a completely equitable grading system.
One of the problems associated with a grading system such as the one we have is that for many classes it is inappropriate. This is only exacerbated by the necessary testing procedures to give a grade, and only gets worse as you go further into a major. This is why a number of colleges are going to a pass/fail system of grading. I think this is something we may want to consider.
If a student accomplishes all of the learning objectives for a course they should pass the class, I haven’t seen anyone debate that. What I see debated is what grade that person should get for passing the class, not whether they should pass, but after college many people who “passed” will be passed over by potential employers because they didn’t pass with a high enough grade.
I have had an excellent education here and will go into the workforce with many tools to help me do my job. I believe that we have a wonderful educational institution here at BYU. But I also believe that it is not perfect and that the world is not constant, so it is necessary for those of us here to constantly try to improve upon it.

S.H. &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

I think the issue is when you are a good student with good study habits, and you take a class, put ridiculous amounts of time into said class, and still pull a C.
For instance, I put in 9-12 hours a week one semester studying in the physics tutorial lab for a 100-level physics class, did all the readings ahead of class, never skipped class, did all practice exams, did the homework on time, and had a study group, and still got a C in that class. I respectfully submit that that is ridiculous and is indicative of a problem on the part of the teacher’s teaching ability and/or grading policy. (Interesting to note is that I received A’s in my 300, 400, and 500-level science classes that semester.)
While classes are supposed to be challenging, if one puts in the amount of time productively studying per credit hour that the university suggests for, say, a 100 level class, it is not unreasonable to expect at least a B in said class. The university has guidelines for the amount of time rec’d to study per hour for every credit you take; adding in that 100 levels are supposed to be easier than 200, etc., after several semesters you get a feel for how much time you should invest in a class for each level of class per semester to get a good grade. When classes go outside that dramatically in terms of time consumption and yet poor grades are acquired, that is a failure on the part of the teacher to either grade well, teach well, or keep the content/difficulty of material in line with what the university expects for each level/credit hour of class.
Feelings of entitlement are ridiculous, but an reasonable expectation for a decent grade based on effort put in is not ridiculous in the slightest.

T. Anderson &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 4:15 pm

First, it might help to clarify the issue here: an entitlement by definition is a benefit one is granted by right or privilege, not by hard work or performance. In other words, to say that one is entitled to a certain grade is a different claim than to say one has earned it. No professor worth his or her salt would dispute the suggestion that a student who has met all the requirements of a syllabus (which, by the way, is not necessarily a legally binding document, despite frequent claims to the contrary) and performed exceptionally well in a course deserves an “A” grade. But neither would that professor want to say the student deserves that grade because he or she is entitled to it. The claims to which most professors object (and to which all fair-minded students should also object) are not claims to “just rewards,” but to “entitlements”—that is, arguments that we should grant “A” grades simply because a student wants, needs, expects, or is otherwise entitled to them. For example (as I have been told more than once by a student or parent), “if I (or my child) doesn’t get an “A” in your course, I (or he/she) won’t get into med school.” That may be true. But in my opinion, that fact doesn’t entitle that student to an “A.” And the major reason why I feel that way (and why you should as well) is because it would be patently unfair to all the other students in my courses and because it would undermine the purpose of grades.
However flawed the system, assigning grades correlative to performance is one of the best ways we have to indicate your performance relative to that of other students. And contrary to the assumptions of at least one commenter so far, grades which truly indicate student performance are a direct response to supply and demand. Graduate schools want that information. So do employers. (And so should you if you’re interested in how you are doing relative to your peers). And when teachers are conscientious, honest and don’t grade on a course-specific curve (which compares a misleadingly small sample of students) or in response either to an inflated or an overly-rigorous scale, grades can provide amazingly accurate and consistent indications of student achievements, abilities, proclivities, and prospects. And those of us who have graded students for many years also know that grades are not simply an indication of test-taking ability. That might be true in one or two courses, but within certain parameters a GPA (the result of grades averages across many courses) does accurately indicate a student’s work ethic as well as his or her level of knowledge and academic skills.
Certainly, it’s often no fun being the subject of such comparisons. But that doesn’t mitigate their necessity or value. Of course, prejudicial or unfair grades, uninformative or misleading syllabi, courses with assessment flaws (that is, courses with a poor correlation between reading/lecture material and assignments, on the one hand, and tests and resultant grades, on the other hand), etc., are all genuine problems when they occur. And they are problems which should be corrected. But none of those problems is a valid argument for entitlement to a specific grade. And I disagree that you are at the mercy of your graders. There are institutional recourses to inaccurate grades. They don’t always work, but you can (and sometimes should) pursue them when you feel you have evidence of unjust treatment—first with the TA or professor, then with the department chair.
You should also recognize that grades do not directly measure hard work—they measure performance relative to that of your classmates. Part of the challenge involved in earning high grades is learning to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and how hard you have to work in order to compete in a particular subject. Sometimes you may have to work far more (or less) than other students in order to earn the same grade. That’s not unfair; it’s just life. I’m now partly blind, so I have to work much harder to read and even to see than I used to—and consequently, some tasks require much more effort from me than they do from you. That’s life. I don’t like it, but neither do those who have far more difficult problems to overcome.
As has already been advised, one of the best ways to avoid unfair grades is to cultivate good relations and communications with your teachers. Rarely do more than one or two students a semester come and ask me for help, even though those who do typically get better grades in the end—not because I thereafter favor them, but because I help them learn the material, master the skills, and complete the tasks required to earn better grades.
In short, we’re not (intentionally) the monsters you sometimes think we are. Most teachers (admittedly, not all) would love to give high grades to everyone; assigning low grades is for many of us a heart-wrenching experience, believe it or not. And assigning low grades inevitably means (at least to me) that I’ve failed to some degree as a teacher, so there’s nothing I appreciate more than a student who wants to do well and is willing to do what’s required to earn an “A.” I will do everything I can to help such a student.
So my advice would be to do a little informal research, find teachers who teach because they love it (and love their students), and then communicate with those teachers. And I’ll bet your grades improve.

BYU student &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

Dear Professors;
Quite honestly – there are innumerable excuses given as to why students will demand or request a better grade than they were given. If they have a problem meeting the requirements for the class – it is up to them to talk to you. There are those who will whine and make excuses, and there are those who actually have legitimate reasons (ex. death in the family or chronic illness). These are two different things which many cannot decipher the difference between. Basically – many students need to start accepting responsibility for their own actions. Welcome to college – this is no longer high school where excuses were allowed and taken into account. These professors are not here to babysit us. It is our reponsibility to learn from the mistakes we make (i.e. – a “b” on a paper for poor grammar. It doesn’t matter how many hours you spent on it. You didn’t meet the full requirements for the paper to receive an “A” grade.) Some of us have to spend more time studying than others. It’s our responsibility to find out for ourselves how we learn best. If this requries 5 hours of studying vs. your roommate’s 1 hour of study for the same midterm – so be it. Find out how you can learn the material better. There are different study methods – not all work for everyone. This school provides many resources designed to help students to meet their various needs. Talking with the professors, TA’s, counselors and others can help you meet the requirements for the classes you take. The Student Development Classes are also a great resource to use. Don’t give up students – there are people here who would love to see you succeed. (which may be hard to realize when you do get that lower grade.) However, it can push you to try harder and find out what you need to do to ensure a better grade next time.

Alias Alexander Smith &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

I failed two classes before I was set to graduate from BYU-Idaho. My prof(s) gave me a failing grade because according to them-born and raised in Utah and Idaho; race was a deciding factor in my issuance of a grade.

Should race be a factor when it comes to issuing grades to students even though they do all the Prof. asks them to do?

Mary &mdash Mar 2, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

It is upsetting that so many students who call themselves bright think that education is about supply and demand, getting a leg up on the competition, ranking students, etc. There are three types of competition (a) against another person (b) against a standard, and (c) against yourself. The last two are probably the most favorable. I pity the people who think education is a competition against others and I do not see how people that believe this can reconcile that with our Christian beliefs about charity and even about the nature of heaven, which has room for all who qualify when held against certain standards. I realize that some “game playing” by way of earning grades is foisted upon us in order to continue our education, but we have to keep a democratic perspective. Even though the element of competition has become misguidedly embedded in the brand of American democracy, it isn’t a part of actual transformational Democracy. People who insist on competition may garner many small victories, but ultimately, they will lose–and so will the rest of us for their unkindness and misjudgment. I post this comment knowing that those who need to change the most will try to think of the most reasons why they are better than others and therefore, deserve more.

Jade McDowell &mdash Mar 3, 2009 @ 12:31 am

Dear Professors,
I believe there are many students at BYU who feel entitled to an A but are not qualified for one. However, I also believe there are some instances when professors set the bar so high that instead of being inspired to reach a little higher, students are merely frustrated and demoralized. For example, I fail to see why it is alright for bright, intelligent students to feel relieved to merely be passing American Heritage. As a Resident Assistant I have had many freshman girls come to me, crushed because they are getting a C or lower in that class. Some of them were 4.0 students in high school, and are managing A’s in most of their more difficult courses at BYU, yet they are reduced to tears after an American Heritage or Physical Science exam. These classes are supposed to be 100-level General Education courses, not senior-level classes. There isn’t even a weeding-out factor. In these cases, I think the griping about “deserving” an A aren’t always off the mark. Students should always feel that an A is attainable, even if in the end they recieve a lower grade. Also, please stop telling us that grades don’t matter. It’s a really nice ideal, but the reality is if I drop below a 3.6 GPA, I lose my scholarship, which is the only thing keeping me out of debt at the moment. I’m not the only one in this position, and others need those top marks to get into graduate school. That being said, I think most of the time BYU professors give grades that are both fair and accurate. I understand that A does not stand for average, and having a bad day is not an excuse. Please just remember that occasionally, we may be right.

Laura Kimball &mdash Mar 4, 2009 @ 11:01 am

Dear Student,
I recently had a student not turn in a group of projects – she left no note, no explanation until I asked about their whereabouts – then I was told “there was a disaster” – I was expecting her house flooded – her husband in the hospital (she was clearly well herself) or worse… the disaster was a forgotten flash drive and an exam the same day in a previous class – thus the projects could not be completed. I explained she had an entire month to complete them and leaving it to a few hours before class did not qualify as a disaster. The syllabus clearly states the results of late projects and the expectations of the class.

I realize we all procrastinate – we all push things to the last minute; however, with proper planning we can all avoid a “disaster”. Mark your calendars with the important dates – and even pre schedule yourself time to work on your projects/ papers. We all work a bit better under pressure – if needs be create your own pressure – up deadlines for pending assignments – even turn it in early!

I was never a good test taker myself – I would study carefully and thoroughly -however I would second guess myself and confuse myself with anxiety – and yet I knew my stuff – I could apply the information to daily tasks and even tutored fellow students (who would subsequently get a better grade on the exam). I learned a valuable lesson – I learned my strengths and weaknesses as a student – if I wasn’t the strongest test taker I would still study and do my best, (don’t ever give up) I would focus and do the rest of my assignments with perfection – this also lead to better test scores and less pressure/ anxiety.

Open the communication between you and your professor – if you have difficulties meeting a requirement for whatever reason meet with your professor before hand. Discuss the class and your issues – do not wine – or complain – it is not too hard – the requirements are not impossible. If you feel a grade is not accurate find out how/ why you received it – we, like you, sometimes make mistakes – do not start the conversation with an accusation. Your hard work and determination to succeed will open opportunities – be sure you follow through and your actions truly speak louder than your words. Take advantage of extra credit when it is offered even if you don’t think you need it!

Ultimately we are here to help you prepare for the workforce, further education, and life outside of class. Look at your education – each class is a job – there are expectations and there is payment. You may not receive what you feel you deserve… realize some grades are subjective up to the grader– did you complete your assignments satisfactorily or average (this is just meeting your requirements, you did it – AKA “C”), were you above average (good job!), or did you excel or surpass expectations in the course (Wow!). “A’s” are not just meeting the course requirements doing the readings and assignments – they are for excelling. Be proud of your results – even before they are graded. There are many who just meet the requirements of daily life– those who expect more of themselves stand out! Great opportunities will follow!

Be excellent students! Put forth an excellent effort in all that you do – expect nothing less of yourself.

Laura Kimball, ASID, CID
Former BYU Student
Professional Interior Designer
Adjunct Professor of Interior Design Elsewhere

Thomas Watkins &mdash Mar 4, 2009 @ 4:40 pm

My only comment on this subject is how Karl G. Maeser graded preparation.

He had each student give themselves a grade at the end of each class period in front of all their peers. By that point, it would be obvious to their peers if they were really prepared or not, so typically, students always reported a grade they had really earned. It had the effect of making them work harder.

Danielle &mdash Apr 23, 2009 @ 11:42 am

Thanks Laura!

KayDe &mdash Jun 19, 2009 @ 8:55 pm

A grade does not reflect what you know or what you have learned. There is no way of measuring that. So, teachers have to measure the one thing that can be measured: how well you can SHOW what you know. It is not the acquisition of knowledge but rather the demonstration of knowledge that is important in both a school setting and a workplace setting.

As a graduate student, I have been on both sides of this argument very recently. The thing is that if you can’t demonstrate your knowledge, you can’t justify getting an A. You could know all the right answers, but if you didn’t actually answer them correctly, you have no evidence to back your claim.

Michael Adamson &mdash May 19, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

There are two competing forces here. Students, driven by sentiments of “entitlement,” may make requests that would unfairly adjust their grade. However, in response to this, I’ve found many professors have developed a bias that prevents them from fairly evaluating legitimate concerns.

Another concern I have as a student, is that some professors have a vague goal for the course, or, even if the goal is clear, they do a poor job of organizing the grade structure in a way that incentivizes individual accomplishment of the course goal. For example, many classes I’ve been in (1) reward cramming for exams and (2) reward those who turn in projects on time over those who turn in quality work (they deduct more points for tardiness than they do for poor-quality work).

When the goals of the course do not align with the grading structure, students can sense the unfairness, and are more likely to argue with a teacher about a grade. There may be some entitlement sentiments involved in some cases, but students have a keen sense of when grades don’t match up with the actual goals of the course. Students will argue their case more adamantly and more often when this is the case.

Bad professors, in my opinion, take a one-size-fits-all approach to viewing these cases. Teachers should take responsibility for their own poor grading structures.

Allison &mdash Jan 29, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

Look around your classroom. Chances are there are several people that are smarter than you and several that are not as good at the subject as you. How would you feel if the person that is struggling and not understand any of the material gets the same grade as you. You worked hard all semester and thoroughly understand the material. Now think about the kid sitting in the front row that works even harder than you and understands everything better. Do you deserve the same grade as them?
If you walked into a classroom and were told that everyone would receive an A, no matter what, how hard would you work? What if you were told that everyone would receive a C? Neither are the optimum solutions. Grades should be based on results but resorting back to the original grading scale. A C is still average. Then most people should receive C’s if not than the grades are worthless. Unfortunately an A has become average and it is expected that you should receive an A for trying. Students should stop expecting A’s, but in order for the transition to work schools and scholarships need to stop expecting A’s. As long as most people expect A’s to be a given then teachers will keep giving out unearned A’s because it is expected.
The system needs to be reworked so that A’s represent exceptional work, B’s above average, and C’s average work. If everyone is doing A work then it should become the average (C) and A work is actual exceptional compared to the average.

Adam Youngfield &mdash May 7, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

GPA means absolutely nothing, since it never measures so many different things. “Entitled” is a minority category into which professors place concerned students in order to deride and isolate them, much like the Nazis did with religious and ethnic minorities; whenever a professor says she thinks students feel “entitled,” what she is really doing is labeling them as unfit for her attention due to a perceived handicap or flaw in their philosophy. Whenever a student requests consideration, the automatic–almost robotic–response that comes from professors is that he is not “entitled” to it, even when entitlement has nothing to do with the student’s concern. Words and expressions like “GPA,” and “entitlement,” have lost all their meaning on academia. Thank you, professors. Your institution has confounded the purpose for which it was founded.

Brenda &mdash Jun 7, 2011 @ 3:30 am

I was wondering why professor give Black student lower grade despite their work being better or equal to the white students…….and also I was wondering why on the SAT AND ACT they ask you what race are you?….They claim the Black student are not doing good etc…well if you take away all these racial issues, the Black student would succeed…the barriers are there for a reason…then they turn around and say Blacks are not doing good or inferior ….not true! ….heres why!
1) If teachers/Professors would put away their racist attitude towards Blacks and grade fairly….
2) if the Major testing exams would not ASK FOR RACE identity and location of where you live…you will see Blacks succeed … all these tricks and scams….are put there for Blacks to not to succeed and they know it!
3) don’t give me statistics on Black students….When you make things fair…then you can give me statistics….take away racist professors or teacher, take away the SAT, ACT and major testing exams asking what race you are and having secret numbers all over their form to idenfily your neighborhood and school, Take away the ACT AND SAT asking how far your parents went in their education and base your scores on all these factors…and
4)the even ask if you are hispanic or white hispanic or have a hispanic background, WHY? WHY the race identity…why can’t student JUST take the test without all this race, school, and neighborhood identity issues……
5) lastly they also base on what school you are/have attended…..if you are attending a RICH white school district…your scores are boost up or giving extra points even if you are not smart….I think going to a favorable white school or district you automatically get 150 added points or so…. this was not true…then why do they ask for race identity, ask about your parents education, have secret small numbers all over their forms and grade your ACT and SAT according to what school you go to, what neighborhood you live……I say let the slate be fair and you will see Black students “Shine”…the slate is not fair and is full of racism……and they know this…..they do it on purpose! and come back and say untrue things about Blacks., Hispanics..sometimes even Jews….
Oh I forgot…if you are arab, Chinese or any other foreign student…you are pretty much protected from racism from the teachers….they love foreign students,,,,, they could do no wrong!

At the end of the school year the professor quickly get rid of your final paper…you never see what you got….with the Black students they could give them ANYTHING…because you never see your final paper…..Lots of Black student do very well on the final only to be confronted with a failing grade without proof of their paper…… there should be a law that students should be giving their finals a week before school end..so they can see what they received and ask questions if they needed to.
~~~~~Bottom Line~~~ be fair with ALL Student, LEAVE your racial bias at home when grading and revised the ACT, SAT, LSAT etc …they need to be revised and not ask race, neighborhood questions in efforts to give whites higher points and take away points for Blacks and Hispanics……

Bean &mdash Mar 12, 2012 @ 10:00 pm

If we are adults, and we are there to learn, better our own lives and whether or not we succeed in careers or take anything useful away from our experience; that is OUR business. If someone tells you they are in college “to learn and expand” they’re telling you a bold faced lie, because they think that is the best answer. When a prospective employers asks you why you should be hired and you say, “Because I want to grow with a great company and be part of a team” instead of “Because my car insurance is due next week and I am broke”, you are FULL OF POOH. The same applies to most people sitting in college classrooms. They are there for the same reason as everyone else, because most jobs today, regardless of how meaningless or dead-end they are, require at least a degree in something. It’s a game to get that piece of paper. Colleges aren’t designed to actually teach you, they are geared to 1: weed out those who aren’t serious and 2: keep those out who society does not want to enter into the professional world or cannot handle it. Basically the one who can finish the obstacle course and bull crap his way through, finding effective tricks to pass his courses, will be able to BS his way through life. It’s all about negotiation, not learning. How to juggle course work. IF it was about learning you would take only the classes you needed for your profession and you wouldn’t be given 500 terms to study when only 15 will appear on the test.

If you fail, it’s your loss. You’re money down the drain, your time wasted, so why do they punish you if you don’t care and after you leave there you cannot secure or maintain a job? Because mommy and daddy have kids they are paying the tuition for to graduate with results. If they are not happy and others are not happy the college will lose reputation. It’s not about YOU, the student, the learner, at least not today. It may have been at some point in history, somewhere, but not now. It’s about how to make the college richer by competing with other institutions for YOURS or mainly, mommy and daddy’s business.

This is the biggest lie you will hear when people say you are in college to learn and that you are given expectations because those are the skills you will need to succeed in life. Since when do people care that much about how you succeed? The biggest thing to learn is that no one cares about you out in the real world. Not that I agree with this. But basically, as a customer supporting a business, it should be your choice whether or not you learn anything from your experience.

I think if it was about learning they wouldn’t categorize people within neat little numbers or letter grades. Professors go out of the way to make it hard because many of them are on serious power trips and take the attitude that their class is the most important. For students who require many hours to study or read books, the advantage is for those who do not. Being a slow reader in order to comprehend something does not mean you are an underachiever or poor student, but you will likely have to make choices sooner or later being that other professors will also expect you to spend every waking moment outside of THEIR class, completing THEIR work. I think professors who come to lecture and just read off notes and slide shows and leave the TA to do their bidding and you to basically learn on your own are arrogant and egotistical. You ARE after all paying for something, not to come to class and not be in work only to have to go home and use your free time to pretty much teach yourself the material. And, if you DON’T come to class just to fall asleep from boredom hearing them talk about nothing, they penalize you. What gives? In most cases, work is done at the end of the day, unless you have a high demand high pressure top level career where your life revolves around your work. We won’t get into that, here, because I have opinions about that, too. There is no purpose for life if you spend it working and not living, but anyway.

In my experiences, if you ARE a good student and otherwise trying to do well and you show effort, if you talk to your professor and are having difficulty maybe getting the work done because you work when you are not in class, etc., the professor if often more willing to accommodate you, knowing you are trying. If you just don’t show up because you didn’t feel like studying and expect to take it later, without a valid reason for not being able to perform well, then no, it isn’t fair. However, it is a game of maneuvering.

Lisa &mdash May 3, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

I recently have come across professors that were extremely negative and no matter how much you try to discuss with them about their unfair grading they tend to get offended as if they had super natural powers and they are always right. Since a little kid I always had the correct answer and professors/teachers usually did not like that about me. I have had only one professor who has graded me fairly. I am at the end of my wits and I have started a grade appeal. Upon speaking to the chair of the department for my appeal he actually picked his nose while he was talking to me and gave little consideration for my appeal. I have a IQ of 160 a LSAT score of 175 and the professors are all trying to purposely give me C’s so i don’t graduate with honors. This is truly kills my belief system in this grading and how professors can speak on the approach of the student makes the difference in their grades. THAT IS SAD TO SAY THE LEAST! Its like a policemen seeing someone get robbed and actually help the robber. The system is totally corrupt and it is a set up for any brilliant student to make it. What I believe needs to be done is that all professors really need to check their ego. As a professor when your on high horse thinking that you can destroy anyone’s future you should remember the times when you needed help and were performing way better than other students but the professor turned you down at every request. We have international students coming in laughing at the curriculum and what the professor calls fair. I still can’t understand how I state all the correct answers in class and how my teacher can mark it right on my test but still take off points for the correct answers. As the first reading on this page states the attitude of the student isn’t that what teachers do in Elementary school or Middle school even High school but a UNIVERSITY, WOW. ARE YOU REALLY A PROFESSOR BASING A STUDENT OFF THEIR ATTITUDE. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT THAT STUDENT DEAL WITH ON A DAILY BASIS? THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT, YOUR BASING A STUDENT OFF OF THEIR ATTITUDE INSTEAD OF THEIR CREDENTIALS, HARD WORK AND UNDERSTANDING OF THE MATERIAL. THAT IS SO WRONG.
JEFF ANDERSON IS COMMITTING THE AD HOMINEM ACT, WHICH MEANS HE IS ATTACKING THE PERSON INSTEAD OF THE ARGUMENT. YOU MAKE ME SICK!

Professor Realtiy &mdash Jun 17, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

Beloved students:

While I may be older than dirt, I still remember quite well what it was like to be a student. However, when I went to college it was a different world.

I was not scared of my professors, but if one spoke to me in class I often felt like I was going to break into shards of glass. I never did – and I am glad my professors cared enough to speak to eveyrone – but it was a different time and age. We respected our professors.

Yes, I am a professor and I have worked very hard to get where I am. I knew from quite a young age that I wanted to be a professor. One might say it is a calling.

Frances Bacon said it so well: “Knowledge is Poewr”. It is power. With knowledge and the ability to learn how to use it we can EARN anything. The one beautiful thing about America is that we have the freedom succeed and we also have the freedom to fail. I always chose to succeed.

Question: If you were at work at your boss asked you to complete a specific task that you have performed well in the past and your boss asked you to complete that specific task within a specific time frame (and the time frame was reasonable) what do you think would happen if at the time when the task was due you said to your boss – sorry – I tried really hard but I was not able to get the task done.

Now, understand, your bosses job rests on their performance so if your performance is less than it should be then their performance is less than it should be. Trust me this is one of those things that runs up the hill rather than down.

Quite frankly, if you were my employee I would show you the door.

You are there to perform a specific task and that is what you are being paid to do – so do it. No excuses – if you cannot perform that task then there is someone else that is more than happy to perform the task.

It is no different in college. You are given an assignment and you are given the tools and the information to complete that assignment. You are given a reasonable amount of time to complete the assignment. If you do not understand something about the assignment it is your responsibility to ask the professor for clarification.

If it is not done – then you are awarded a grade commisserate with your performance.

That is life. Deal with it.

If you were asked by your boss to research photocopies and make a recommendation for the best photocopier for the office. What would you do?

This is no different than a compare and contrast academic paper.

What would happen if you went back to your boss and said I choose XYZ photocopier and he asked you why you chose the XYZ copier and you could not give him a logical well thought out reason for your decision?

There is the door. LIfe is tough – if you want to succeed step up to the plate.

If I am not in class when the bell rings – it is not acceptable. I am always there. Don’t you think that sometimes I would like to stay in bed a few more minutes? But I am always there – you can count on me. Why can’t I count on you?

I am required to have your papers graded with full and extensive feedback within four days. It does not matter if I have five classes with 100 students in each four days is my due time. What do I do? I get it done. It is my job and it is my responsibility. I knew this going in and I accepted the challenge.

One thing that drives me crazy is students who come to me at the start of class and say something about a vacation they have had planned for months that they will be taking during my class, or that they will be delivering their baby during my class, or there is something else that will be happening in their lives during my class that will take them away and I must make special accommodations for them.

Universities allow students to take terms off for legitimate reasons. Take a term off and have th baby. You knew you were pregnant when you signed up for class – so why don’t you just figure it out and take a term off.

Another thing, forget the lame excuses such as: I had a death in my immediate family last week, I had a death in my immediate family this week and I plan on having a death in my immediate family nexxt week….. can I have an extension on my homework from the last two weeks and for the next week. Come on – three people in your immediate family dying each one (conveniently) one right after the other and in a way that it give you extra time to get your work done. How very nice of them to accommodate you.

Grow up – get your work done on time, no excuses, no whining, no pity parties, effort does not equal a great grade and no, you are not special and you do not deserve preferential treatment. No DISPARATE TREATMENT.

Signed,

Professor Reality

Derek J. Steele &mdash Aug 10, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

Dear Professor Reality,

Given that you are, in fact, a professor, I will say this: It is hard to take someone serious who hides under a pseudonym, and who does not take the time to proofread their work.

Also, given that you felt the need to mention a quote merely attributed to Francis Bacon, since none of his writings contain that phrase, it might interest you to know that the closest phrase in Bacon’s writings is, “knowledge is His power,” with the “His” being a reference to God.

Therefore, if knowledge is God’s power, and God uses it to bless His children, then the way you use and apply “power” is contrary to the way in which God uses it.

Knowledge, when acquired only to gain power over another person, isn’t wisdom.

I sincerely hope you wrote this post in jest…

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