Delayed grade postings come under fire from students

GW Law School students are pushing back against professors who post class grades after the official deadline, potentially hurting aspiring lawyers’ job or internship hunts.

The Student Bar Association senate passed a resolution last week calling for a transparent grade-posting deadline, consequences for professors who post grades late and improved communications from the school’s records office.

The law school’s grade-posting deadline depends on how many students and research papers professors have to grade. Starting Jan. 2 for fall semester exams, professors have one day for every eight exams or five research papers to submit grades.

Students leaders said the school has been inconsistent with this formula and kept students guessing on when grades will be posted – creating a waiting game with potential employers.

Greg Matherne, a second-year student who gathered support for the resolution, said he could not provide grades to the law firm to which he was applying, which could hurt his chances of landing the job.

“I had just been basically talking to a bunch of friends and some of us felt frustrated about the fact that none of us had grades, and was pretty pissed about it, to put it mildly,” Matherne said. “I think it was pretty much an across-the-board thing.”

Students presented their proposal to a faculty teaching committee last week. Matherne said they are discussing potential solutions with the committee about how to fix the problem and said they would now survey other students to get a wider view on grade posting issues.

Law professor Sonia Suter, head of the teaching committee, said she is waiting on more extensive information from students before making any changes.

She said the problem was not professors’ late submission of grades, but that students do not know when grades will be released, causing confusion.

“I think students would like to get their grades earlier, but it doesn’t mean that people are delayed,” she said, “I think the biggest issue is just about students not knowing when they’re going to get their grades.”

Undergraduate student leaders are also trying to tackle the issue. In the Student Association, Sen. Alicia Rose, ESIA-U, said she and other members of the Academic Affairs Committee met with Columbian College of Arts and Sciences administrators to question current grade posting practices.

Rose said she has heard that students have been shut out of the dean’s list because of “incomplete” marks on their transcript that stem from professors not posting grades in time. She said Columbian College Dean Peg Barratt agreed to “look into the data more” on late grade postings, but that no decision had been made.

According the University’s Faculty Code, professors must submit grades no later than five days after finals end, but it is not enforced. The law school operates under its own grade-posting rules.

At the law school, as competition intensifies for dwindling legal jobs, the students who crafted the proposal said they think they are put at a disadvantage when faculty post grades eight weeks after December exams, instead of within four to six weeks. Other law schools in the D.C. area, such as Georgetown and George Mason universities, enforce clearer grade-posting deadlines, according to their websites.

Other schools nationally have gone to extremes to push professors to post grades on time. The dean of Columbia University’s Law School announced last summer that the names of faculty members who do not submit grades on time would be emailed to faculty or students. The professors would also be fined.

“I think there’s great power in public shaming, to a certain extent. That in and of itself is a powerful tool,” Matherne said, adding that he did not know whether the faculty committee at GW would resort to that extreme.

Law professors James Cottrol, Donald Braman and Jonathan Turley – who were all named in the resolution for posting grades late this year – did not return requests for comment.

Angela Buckner, chair of the Student Bar Association’s academic policy committee, said the law school should at least release a specific policy on grade deadlines like other schools, keeping students from frantically refreshing grade submissions throughout the day.

“The first step would definitely be transparency,” Buckner said. “They are more than willing to work with us and they’ve been great so far.”

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