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Columns, Opinions

Pipatjarasgit ’21: Change final grade submission rules and deadlines: they’re unrealistic and confusing.

By
Staff Columnist
Thursday, October 22, 2020

Toward the end of each semester, Dear Blueno becomes filled with many variants of one type of question: When will final grades be submitted to Banner? Why hasn’t Professor so-and-so submitted grades yet?

In theory, the answer to these questions should be simple. Part 3, Section 10, I.1 of the Faculty Rules and Regulations (Version 17.2, October 7, 2020) states that final grades “shall be returned to the Office of the Registrar within 72 hours from the time of the final examination, except for courses which have the final examination scheduled on the last day (of the exam period); grades for these courses shall be due within 48 hours.” A notable exception to this occurs for the submission of seniors’ grades in May, when each of the preceding standards is reduced by 24 hours. 

What is confusing is that the Faculty Rules contradicts itself. Part 3, Section 8, I.A of the Faculty Rules prescribes an alternate deadline for the fall semester, which stipulates that all grades, regardless of exam date, are due shortly after the new year. In other words, this deadline implies that, for some courses with exams occurring at the beginning of the final examination period, grades are due several weeks after the date that the previous rule stipulates. No such alternate, conflicting deadline exists for the spring semester.

Students’ complaints of instructors missing grade deadlines stretch as far back as 2004. Faculty members had a chance to fix these discrepancies and make other amendments to the policy on final grade submission deadlines when this issue was discussed at a meeting of the Faculty back in 2015, but no action was taken.

Maintaining rules that no one follows is problematic. For example, my high school had a very flexible, lenient dress code that few students knew or paid attention to. One of my teachers made the argument that the dress code should be enforced, changed or eliminated; otherwise, it shows the school’s implicit endorsement of rule-breaking. The same can be said here. At Brown, faculty members breach the 72-hour deadline all the time with impunity. While I am not suggesting that there should be career-ending repercussions (such as a faculty misconduct complaint or denial by the Tenure, Promotions, and Appointments Committee) for professors who do so, it is certainly disrespectful to students, especially because they have no recourse.

Policy change at the University is not an impossibility. Here, I believe the most logical course of action is a rule change; a rule that is inconsistently followed and leaves students confused and frustrated is not worth keeping around. Furthermore, clearer, more standardized guidelines will likely be beneficial for faculty, too. Honestly, I am surprised that the Faculty didn’t make some of these changes years ago, especially when this issue was actually on the agenda. Is it really reasonable to expect instructors of large classes, even with the help of teaching assistants, to properly grade hundreds of students’ work in merely 72 hours?

My solution would be as follows: The deadlines as currently prescribed in Part 3, Section 10, I.1 of the Faculty Rules will only apply to the submission of final grades for undergraduate students on the Registrar’s list of probable graduates for that semester or academic year. For all other students, Jan. 6, currently the alternate deadline, should be the hard deadline for faculty members to submit final grades for the fall semester; as for the spring semester, a date at the end of May should be set as the hard deadline for grade submissions. In cases where instructors have approved coursework extensions at any point in the semester, implemented SEAS accommodations on final exams or made religious accommodations for students, these rules should still apply, but instructors needing more time would be able to request it, except when these students are on that semester or academic year’s list of probable graduates. Instructors who miss this deadline to submit final grades without an acceptable excuse could face repercussions such as lower priority in departmental service requirements, course teaching assignments, course scheduling, room assignments or teaching assistant preferences. These penalties won’t negatively affect instructors’ careers long-term, but ideally, they would create enough of an annoyance to serve as a strong incentive to submit grades on time.

This solution prioritizes seniors, whose grades are needed by the Office of the Registrar in order for their graduation to be processed. It also takes into account the need for the Committee on Academic Standing to review academic progress and calculate students’ standing in a timely manner.

The time to make this change is now: There are only two more meetings of the Faculty between now and the end of the semester. I encourage anyone interested in my idea, especially voting faculty members, to raise the question with the Faculty Executive Committee as soon as possible.

Poom Andrew Pipatjarasgit ’21 can be reached at poom_pipatjarasgit@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

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