Institutional Pressure to Inflate Grades
By Lucas J. Mather, From the Archives
I received an email from the Philosophy Dept at LMU that amounts to institutional pressure to inflate grades and lower academic standards or lose future teaching contracts . Timed right before finals .
Here’s the text of my reply email:
I very much appreciate your candor. And you.
Here’s some candor back. I’ll share part of it in the form of a story.
I know how to get excellent teaching evaluations. I have about 15 years of full-time teaching experience crammed into just over 12 years all over Lost Angeles, from Malibu to gangland, teaching from 80 year olds to 15 year olds in college. From 4 people one class to 90, upper and lower division, all sexual orientations, political persuasions less diverse — mostly on the default left, races , incomes, homeless and celebrity, pro-sports to porn stars to hookers and honest, everyday folks.
When I first started at Pepperdine, back in the day, I received a huge basket from Harry and David from the Chair. Attached were the evaluations and a nice card. The card said I really knocked it out of the park. The evaluations all said I should be president of Pepperdine. That’s what they really all said.
I ran into one of those students years later and he hardly remembered anything from the class besides my jokes and stand up comedy.
That’s when I began to realize that I need to risk my job in order not to inflate grades.
It’s a journey I’ve been on. This past semester, I have reached a new height of integrity in that regard.
And so, getting this email, I thought to myself, I guess I should apply to drive for Uber or something . Because, I am not going back to inflating grades. And the email admitted that there is no merit-based system of evaluation in place.
I’ve been at Loyola for 10 years now. I’m a graduate of LMU. And as a stop-gap measure, those whom we evaluate are evaluating us, and what they want is education — yes — education lite, good grades, comedy, entertainment, some more education . And I can do all of those things. I can do them well. But the longer I do this, the more I’m just interested in doing the education part.
We part-timers are never called into the office to do anything other than be counseled or reprimanded, often for just doing our job. We’re never brought in to get a pat on the back for not inflating grades, to be blunt. So, over time, that wears on us. And here we get this email, below, that in one important respect really amounts to nothing more than institutional pressure to go back to inflating grades and lowering academic standards. And the timing of the email is right before finals, before our pay check is cut off, before we enter those precious grades.
You’ve participated in institutional pressure to inflate grades and lower academic standards for vulnerable part-time faculty.
Having said that, I very much like you and have to believe that deep down, given what I know about you, that you are bothered by that and wish to be a part of something better, and you care for us and are helping us “face reality”. And I can appreciate that, too. It’s very practical.
I hope to continue to be around in the coming years. I like being a part of this department and teaching these LMU students, very much.
Lucas J. Mather
Loyola Marymount University
1 LMU Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Copyright Lucas J. Mather, 2015
All Rights Reserved
Originally published to Facebook Friday Dec 11 2015 at 7:31 am; Sunday Dec 13, 2:22 pm
Dr. Lucas J. Mather, Ph.D, is the producer and host of The Republican Professor (TRP) Podcast.
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