Grading policy myths exposed
Last semester was Junior Kevin Miksis’ first at Towson. He took an active role on campus, enrolling in 18 credits and serving in the Student Government Association senate.
He eventually interviewed and secured the Director of Legislative Affairs paid position for the 2012-2013 academic year.
Unfortunately, Miksis’ father suffers from Dementia, which forced Miksis to assist at home and drop 15 out of his 18 credits, leaving only his internship, a three-credit course at the Harford Office of the Public Defender.
Miksis’ internship lasted until the first week of June, past the semester date, so he requested an extension on his final paper from his internship coordinator, professor of political science Martha Kumar.
Kumar agreed, giving him a grade of incomplete until he turned in his final paper, which Miksis did several days following the end of his internship. Kumar emailed him back and stated he received a grade of A-.
But the incomplete remained on his transcript because Kumar was on sabbatical and did not submit the grade. Miksis soon discovered he was not eligible for his new position.
To serve as director, according to the SGA constitution, a student must be full-time with a cumulative 2.5 GPA. Because
Miksis’ transcript technically read “0.00,” Mary Leeper, the SGA Administrative Assistant, and Teri Hall, Associate Vice President of Campus Life, told him he was ineligible.
“I fought that,” he said. “I told them that this was because of my issue with my professor, that it was out of my control. And they told me that was not their problem; I was responsible to work that out.
In July, when Miksis had already begun to research other Universities to attend, he received a letter informing him, one month after he submitted his final paper, that his grade had been officially changed to an ‘A-.’
He contacted Hall, who informed him he still did not meet the requirements, as he had not registered for courses in the upcoming semester.
“I was agitated,” he said. “I didn’t register for classes because I didn’t know 100 percent that I was going to be in SGA this year. I was going to transfer to another University because I was extremely frustrated with the situation.”
Miksis withdrew from Towson, eventually enrolling in the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, until he received word from the President’s Office, who informed him that he met the requirements for the director position if he registered for the necessary courses.
“I think the biggest thing is to get the word out there so it doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he said. “Something [needs to be put] out there that this is unacceptable that by the end of the semester grades need to be put in on a timely fashion so students are not affected by issues like that.”
Miksis is enrolled at Towson again and is serving as Director of Legislative Affairs.
No official policy exists requiring professors to turn in grades 72 hours following final exams, according to Interim Associate Provost Jane Neapolitan. The 72-hour rule is a guideline from the Registrar’s office, and administration sends out reminders out for professors to submit grades four days following the end of the semester.
Typically, administration also gives leeway to those with independent studies or internships.
The University also does not have policy regarding grades of an incomplete other than that the grade turns into an ‘F’ after 180 days.
For a grade to be amended from an incomplete to a letter grade, the chair of the department and dean of the college must also approve the change, which can pose problems during summer months, Neapolitan said
“People may or may not be here,” she said. “And then it becomes whether or not it’s a priority, because sometimes incompletes are abused. Students don’t always have equal reasons for an incomplete. It’s a very gray area”
James DiLisio, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, said that he thinks the current guidelines are appropriate.
“We try to be relational rather than strictly transactional,” he said. “You’ve got to communicate and step up, and say you’re in a situation, don’t assume that the transactional system is going to kick in and everything will be taken care of. Communicate with the department.”
Senior Emmanuel Welsh, a friend of Miksis and the former Student Advisory Council Chair for the USM, said he intends to propose a policy which ensures professors submit their grades within a certain time limit following final exams.
“Professors expect us to be on time for class and abide by the due dates for assignments and papers,” Welsh said in an email. “As it stands, the grade posting guideline is incredibly weak, confusing, and is not followed by some professors. I’ve had professors who have posted it hours after a final, and some who wait two weeks to post it. The guideline does not appear in the University’s policy repository website, so students don’t even have access to it.“
Interim Associate Vice President and Registrar Bob Giordani said that a policy defining the process for incomplete grades would be difficult to draft.
“Does the faculty member drop everything so that the student can have it done when he wants, or does the faculty member have the right to say ‘the student was two weeks late, it’s going to take three weeks for me to read this paper, I’ll do it next month?” he said. “It has to be fair on both sides.”
For a the University to enact a policy, a draft must pass through the University’s council office, the president’s council, the University senate, who will then advise the provost’s office. The final step is a vote from the president’s council, and if the president agrees, the policy appears on the website. This process can take up to three months.
Giordani said it’s more likely that administration would educate the staff rather than go through the procedure of passing a new policy.
“We can’t expect any student, faculty and staff to understand everything at the University. We say you’re responsible for the catalogue, but you certainly don’t read the whole handbook. I know I don’t,” he said. “We don’t have many situations where a student is that detrimentally hurt because of a grade not coming in for a week or two.”