Christmas was a mixed bag -- mostly good, and I felt very loved, having been taken in by a friend and her family. A little bad -- announcements of a divorce in the family and an expected death which was mostly a blessing. But really, mostly good.
The return home? Not so good. I have in my e-mail two student requests for re-evaluation of grades. These are the kind of requests that kill me. I believe in the mission of community colleges to provide a truly college-level education to those for whom it might otherwise be impossible. I also really believe in federal and state financial aid packages. I am happy for every bit of tax money that goes to them. So here's the problem, oh internets -- an ethical one for which I'd appreciate your opinion. So you know, I cannot really see doing anything for these students.
The problem, in a nutshell, is that, if I don't raise these students' grades -- and by a tenth of a percentage point in each case, I think, they will lose their financial aid for the next term -- I'm not sure how this works -- it seems to me that the one grade I give must fit into an average? I should ask Financial aid and counseling, I suppose.
But -- Student One was almost always late. S/he almost never took notes in class and never (or not that I could tell) prepared for discussion. Never turned in discussion notes when I checked them. All the written assignments were pretty much a C- average. Class participation was 30% of the grade -- s/he was there almost every day, but as I said, no discussion, always late. But the student really does want to do well, and has signed up for another of my classes next term. Other faculty know this student, and there is a general feeling s/he just needs more help in how to do college.
Student Two was really good, all through class. Incredibly bright, prepared (or faked well) all of class discussion, had a grade in the low 90s. Except. The paper was plagiarised. Student asked about the zero on the paper, and I pointed out that it had something to do with uncited passages taken verbatim from a couple of web sites. Student Two did not protest my assessment or claim innocence. What s/he did do was send a note saying that we both knew the grade was not indicative of the work the student was capable of, whatever the reason for that final grade. Could I please raise the grade by that tenth of a point?
Well, shoot. It seems to me that these two students must not have done all that well in their other classes if the grades they earned from me are enough to tip the balance. And one was dishonest. I don't want to see these people lose their aid, but you know, it's never really bothered me before. And if I understand correctly the GPA thing (and since I used to worry about my own, I pretty much think I get the whole GPA thing), Student Two really must have done badly in another class (perhaps also dishonesty??) to be teetering on the edge of losing his/her funding.
Part of me wants to help -- especially Student One. But part of me also says that I didn't give them these grades; they really did earn them. And one of the lessons of college is that you have to do the work. I wonder if I'd feel better about this kind of thing if I had tenure. It seems to me that, in this case, figuring grades mathematically and sticking to those figures means that I cannot allow myself to make decisions based on my own sentiments or wonder about whether either of these students is deserving. Oh internets, shall I take refuge in the rules??
Update: Student One is safe, if s/he brings his/her grades up this term. I will be working with him/her on "how to do college." Student Two's GPA disaster has little to do with what s/he earned in my course. I'm sticking to my guns and feeling stupid for almost having fallen for the sob story. Thanks to everyone who helped out with an opinion. It's nice to have a reality check sometimes.