Housekeeping recycles students’ final exams

Sixty students enrolled in Introduction to International Politics last semester will have to retake the final exam or resubmit research papers and course work after a GW housekeeping employee accidentally recycled the exams before they were graded.

Professor Maurice East, who taught the introductory level course, said the ungraded final exams and grade book were in a box on teaching assistant Michael MacLeod’s desk when they were recycled by a member of the University’s housekeeping staff.

“(MacLeod) worked with housekeeping for about 24 hours before he could contact me,” East said. “He was stomping through recycling bins, searching for where the materials could be.”

MacLeod and East met with Jeffrey Henig, the political science department chair, to devise a solution.Students were notified of the incident by e-mail two days after the exam and were assigned a “work in progress” grade, also called an IPG. Letters were also sent to students during winter break explaining the situation and their options. MacLeod e-mailed students again Jan. 9 reminding them to contact him by Jan. 12 with their option.

Options included accepting a grade of “P,” indicating they had passed the course, in lieu of a letter grade. They also could opt to reconstruct their grades by providing the originals of the midterm and final research paper to MacLeod; their grade would be based on the grades they received on those papers. Students could elect to take a makeup exam scheduled for Jan. 20, or take the rescheduled exam and turn in any graded materials saved from the course.

So far, a quarter of the students have opted to receive a “P” in the course, two-fifths chose to have their grades based on previously graded materials, and one-third opted to retake the final, Henig said. MacLeod said he notified students in a Jan. 13 e-mail that students who did not respond or who could not be reached by phone would receive a “pass” for the class.

Students are not allowed to take a class in their major or minor area of study pass/fail, but Henig said he would make allowances for any student in MacLeod’s discussion sections.

Henig and East said they are trying to make the best of a bad situation, but some students said they are still upset. Dan Smith, who opted to turn in his papers and retake the exam, said he is concerned he will not do as well on the second exam as he did on the original final because he is concentrating on his spring classes.

“I don’t believe I can do as well – to have to study again for an exam when I’ve been removed from the class for four weeks now, while I have other classes to concentrate on,” Smith said. “(It) is rough.”

Sarah Wurrey said she chose to submit her midterm and final paper and reconstruct her grade from those papers. She said she understands the situation but said she is unhappy with the options.

“It concerns me that some people may not have done well in the class all along, but if they do well on the makeup final, they could end up with an A in the class,” Wurrey said.

Wurrey said she studied hard for the final exam and did not think she had time to study to retake the exam. She said she was reluctant to take a “pass” grade in the class.

“I didn’t think a pass would count toward my (grade point average), which is what I am concerned with,” she said.

MacLeod did not return phone calls to his office or his home, but Henig said MacLeod has worked diligently to communicate with students to rectify the situation.

“(MacLeod) has been scrambling like crazy to reassure the students and make sure they have known what was going on from the time we’ve known,” he said. “(He) tried to practically chase after the recycling trucks.”

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