Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., enforces an academic policy that defies belief. Say I'm a freshman taking your class in biology. I learn little from your lectures, assigned readings and homework. I do attend class every day, take notes and manage to average 40 percent on the graded work for the semester. What grade might you give me? I'm betting that all but the academic elite would say, "Sorry, Williams, but no cigar," and I'd earn an F for the course. But if you're a professor at Benedict College and gave me that F, you'd be fired.
That's exactly what happened to science professors Milwood Motley and Larry Williams, both of whom refused to go along with the college's Success Equals Effort (SEE) policy. SEE is a policy where 60 percent of a freshman's grade is based on effort and the rest on academic performance. In a student's sophomore year, the formula drops to 50-50, and it isn't used at all for junior and senior years. In defense of his policy, Benedict's president, Dr. David H. Swinton, said that the students "have to get an A in effort to guarantee that if they fail the subject matter, they can get the minimum passing grade. I don't think that's a bad thing."
According to a story published by Columbia's The State newspaper (www.thestate.com, Aug. 20, 2004), Milwood Motley said the policy compromises the integrity of Benedict. Students are being passed to increase student retention by falsely boosting academic performance. When professors Motley and Williams assigned grades based upon academic performance, Motley said the administration "told us to go back and recalculate the grades, and I just refused to do it." At that point, Dr. Swinton fired both for insubordination.
Dr. William Gunn, a faculty member for 40 years and president of Benedict College's chapter of the American Association of University Professors, is dead set against the policy and believes most other faculty are as well. Writing in The State (Sept. 22, 2004), Dr. Gunn says the SEE policy not only harms today's student but as well Benedict graduates who will see their degrees come under suspicion.