A controversial policy listed in a UGA professor’s Fall course syllabus that allowed students to choose their final grade if they felt the grade they earned was not fair is quickly halted after widespread national criticism.
An article published yesterday by Campus Reform correspondent Anthony Gockowski contained a screenshot of a syllabus policy for a UGA Terry School of Business course describing a “Stress Reduction Policy.” The syllabus for Dr. Richard Watson’s MIST 4610 “Data Management” contained several provisions such as open book and open note exams designed to assess low level mastery of the course as well as “only positive comments” on presentations during class time. The policy also contained a provision allowing students to choose their own final grades if they felt their received grade was unjust. Dr. Watson included the concession that the policy may “…hinder the development of group skills and mastery of class material,” but added that it is ultimately the student’s responsibility to ensure their own success. The Arch Conservative reached out to Dr. Watson for comments, and he responded “None of my classes will have the policy shown by the Campus Reform article”. The syllabus was then updated to remove the grade selection policy, however the original archived syllabus containing the policy can be seen here and is the source of the screenshot below.
Soon after Campus Reform broke the story, media outrage ensued over Watson’s syllabus policy. Several other conservative media outlets picked up the story such including TheBlaze, The College Fix, and Louder with Crowder. Concerns arose that Dr. Watson’s policy was not only indicative of the culture of coddling that has become all too common on campuses in the 21st century, but also the overall degradation of higher academia. In another article published today by Campus Reform, Gockowski confirmed via UGA Executive Director of Media Communications Greg Trevor that Dr. Watson had indeed removed the “Stress Reduction Policy” from his course syllabus amid the intense media flak. Trevor also noted that “…the University of Georgia applies very high standards in its curricular delivery, including a university-wide policy that mandates all faculty employ a grading system based on transparent and pre-defined coursework”.
As much as this story sounds like it came from an Onion article, its veracity came as a shock to many. If students with disabilities need more time to take a test then that is a perfectly valid reason to be allotted more time. But providing students with academic appeasements and the ability to manipulate their final grade all based on their subjective levels of stress completely displaces the level playing field that a college course should provide to all students. Dr. Watson intended for his syllabus policy to benefit overburdened students; however, in reality it would only incentivize students to not take the course seriously by banking on Watson giving them the grade they want rather than the grade they earned. The students who take the class would emerge without having been adequately evaluated, and therefore any qualifications that would have come with the degree they earned would be moot. What remains in question is how this policy even came to fruition. In a prestigious school like Terry where students are learning how to make it in the cut-throat business world, where is the sense in instilling in them a sense of entitlement to a reward they did not earn? There is no value in allowing a student to dictate their level of success in a classroom based on their feelings, and professors nationwide should view Dr. Watson’s short lived policy as a solid example of why institutionalized “grade-grubbing” has no place in a university.
Furthermore, Terry students should be thankful that they will not be able to use (and likely abuse) this harmful policy, and embrace the stress that comes with being at a top tier university. Stress is one of the defining characteristics of being a fulltime student, and we are all affected by it. Many view stress as an inhibitor to success, however I believe that stress keeps students at the top of their game. If you didn’t have that ballooning feeling in your stomach reminding you that the next rerun of The Office would be still be on Netflix tomorrow but your midnight paper deadline is indeed finite, then it would be much easier to continue slacking off. Similarly, if you know that you can receive (rather than earn) an A by simply explaining to your professor that the undue stress from the course led to your earning a C, then there is little motivation to deliver anything but a subpar performance. This type of thinking doesn’t exist in professional institutions, and should remain absent from academics. Reward for persistence and drive is genuinely given and rightly earned. When perverse incentives replace these efforts, the reward given becomes meaningless.
—Connor Foarde is Campus News Editor of The Arch Conservative.