Student suing Concordia University over grade
Published Monday, November 12, 2012 11:29AM EST
A political science student is taking Concordia University to court after an A- was changed to a B+ -- apparently because the class had reached its quota of As and some students had to be downgraded.
The controversy stems back to December 2011, when part-time student William Groombridge received a mark of 81 per cent in his Energy Policy class. Under the department's policy, a score of between 80 and 84 per cent qualify as an A, and his professor told him as much.
But when Groombridge got his results, he was surprised to find he had been given a B+ as his overall mark. He said he quickly emailed his professor to find out why there was a discrepancy.
"He tells this long story about the department chair who had this arbitrary no-more-than-25-per-cent-of-the-class-can-get-an-A rule, that he had never heard of, and that the department chair had made him go back and change the grade. So he went back and dropped four students from an A- to a B+," Groombridge told CTV's Canada AM.
Officials from Concordia told CTV they will not comment on the case because it is before the courts. But in his correspondence with Groombridge, which the student provided to CTV, professor Felix von Geyer explained that he was told that no more than 25 per cent of any given class could receive As.
"This does not mean there is a strict cap or quota but that when the norm is exceeded one needs to do a quality review and I then stripped A grades to B+," he wrote.
The professor also pointed out that he had given a discretionary 5 per cent bonus to some students, including Groombridge, for exhibiting initiative and hard work. He would not do so in future, he explained, in order to remove any ambiguity from his marking policies.
"So, under my 5 per cent discretionary system, I felt an A- was a fair grade that embodied William's overall contribution. Under a pure outcomes-based grading system to which I will restrict myself to the future it would most likely have been a B+."
If Groombridge hadn't received the bonus, which boosted his grade to 80 per cent, his mark would have landed at 75.9 per cent which would have been well within B-grade territory, von Geyer said.
"Needless to say a piece of my heart died during this process but I apologize to you both for the incident having arisen for the fault is mine," he concluded in the email, which was also addressed to political science chair Csaba Nikolenyi.
Groombridge wasn't satisfied, however. He went to Nikolenyi looking for answers, which he says weren't provided.
"When he got back to me he said the grades are the grades and that's it. And I never really got an explanation -- I wanted official confirmation that the department had this rule and the grades had been dropped."
Groombridge then went to the ombud's office, student services and the dean's office, and still received no clear answers. He then hired a lawyer to send a letter, asking for a refund of the $342 he paid for the course.
When that also went unanswered, Groombridge went to small claims court in June and filed a lawsuit.
"I'm treating it as a product they sold me for $342 and that they haven't adhered to the terms of the service, so I just asked for a refund."
Groombridge was told it could take up to two years for a settlement on the claim.