Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Another case of grade inflation 

This time it comes from Wisconsin Lutheran College where a professor is suing the school for wrongful termination as a tenured full professor due to "skewed grade distribution."
The lawsuit states Papenfuss, 59, once conducted a full-day workshop for the faculty on the topic of grade inflation - a controversial issue facing colleges across the country. Meanwhile, two-thirds of the grades Papenfuss has handed out were Cs or better, according to the complaint, and that an A was the most common grade he gave.

Sometime in or around 2001, Friske set forth a grading program for calculus courses taught by the college's math faculty that allowed "virtually no failing grades regardless of students' class performance," the complaint states. Papenfuss says this resulted in the passing of many unqualified students, especially in classes taught by Friske.

Papenfuss says he repeatedly complained to the administration about the grading tactic. Starting in mid-2003, Friske began to downgrade Papenfuss' job performance, undermining his standing with the university's administration and disparaging him in front of students, including once calling him "the ogre who will be your instructor next semester," the complaint states.

In January 2004, Papenfuss administered a Calculus 2 qualifying exam, and 10 of the 12 students who failed it were in Friske's Calculus 1 class the previous semester, the lawsuit states. On Feb. 25, 2004, in the middle of the week, Papenfuss was fired "not for cause" but due to "skewed grade distribution," according to the complaint.

Papenfuss claims his firing in mid-semester violates university guidelines, which stipulate terminations are effective at the end of an academic year. He also claims he did not receive fair warning prior to his dismissal, such as counseling or a written admonition by the college's vice president for academic affairs.
Papenfuss has been at the school 33 years. What is interesting to me is that nowhere does anyone say Papenfuss had tenure. I suppose perhaps they do not offer this at WLC? Or perhaps he was hired into a long-term position that does not allow for tenure. Neither the JS Online article quoted above nor the Chronicle of Higher Ed (subscription required) has any additional information.