Mike Adams

Dear Fall 2004 students:

First of all, let me apologize for writing you so late in the year after so many of you have gone home for the semester. Most of you thought that the semester was over and that grades had been finalized, so you didn?t expect to get this mass email from your (now former) professor. But, nonetheless, I urge you to read this message carefully. It may mean a change in your grade for the semester that we just finished together.

I am writing to you because a student recently contacted me to question her final grade in my class. First, she wanted me to explain our complex grading system. As you know, this involves adding your three test scores together and dividing by three. Fortunately, I was able to convince her that there had been no computational errors so we could move on to the issue that was really bothering her. She had had a ?rough? semester and wanted me to give her some ?consideration? for the difficulties she had encountered, which, according to her, adversely affected her performance in my class.

In addition to breaking up with her boyfriend, this concerned student was having difficulty paying her bills and had to work 30 hours a week while taking fifteen credit hours last semester. These difficulties added up, in her opinion, to at least a one letter grade drop in her class performance.

It may come as a surprise to all of you but, after listening to her hardship story, I have decided to change this student?s grade. Specifically, I plan to raise it one letter grade in order to give her the outcome she would have earned if life would have gone as she expected it to, without any unforeseen difficulties.

I came to this decision based upon two principal factors. First, there was the sheer sincerity of the student?s argument. She really felt that she deserved a better grade.  I know that should have been enough but the second factor was the real clincher. When she left my office and went to her car (which was parked in the faculty parking lot with a $25 ticket on the windshield) I noticed that it was a $30,000 SUV. How can the student afford a $30,000 gas-guzzling SUV if her studies are interfering with her work schedule? And those $25 parking tickets really add up after a while. Clearly, something has to give.

After I committed to raising this student?s grade, it occurred to me that I should probably contact all of you to see how your semester went. And, in fairness, if any of you experienced any unexpected difficulties, you should have the right to enumerate them and explain exactly how much they hurt your performance in class last semester. Using the university honor system, I will take you at your word and adjust your grades accordingly.

Mike Adams

Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Letters to a Young Progressive: How To Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don't Understand.