Alex Schneider: Reforming GW Law’s grading policy

At GW Law School, the teaching committee – prompted by a student petition – is reviewing the grade submission policy to determine whether changes are warranted.

What GW needs is a common sense policy on grade release transparency that recognizes the value of early access to that information.

The policy is on its way to a faculty review after the Student Bar Association senate passed a resolution in February. Faculty are reviewing the proposal and should support this initiative and pass it without delay.

Five law school deans answered student questions through a town hall format April 1. Not surprisingly, students asked about the grade release policy.

Grade release transparency hasn’t exactly been a priority at the law school. Students are not given a firm grade release deadline, meaning they often check for grades multiple times a day in the weeks after finals. Grades sometimes arrive late, hurting the job application process in an already competitive legal market. As Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Christopher Bracey admitted at the town hall, “having those grades earlier is a strategic advantage.”

At the town hall, the panel of school administrators took the wrong approach. They discussed concern for faculty who might not make deadlines due to medical emergencies.

“I may be the only person who knows,” Bracey said of faculty who are sick and cannot turn in grades on time.

Bracey should not be the only one to know. Students should receive communication from their professors or administrators regarding the release of grades and in the case of delays.

Banweb, the online system for accessing grades and transcripts, is an inadequate means for providing law school grades. The law school requires students to report GPAs to the thousandth digit on all resumes and job applications. But Banweb only goes as far as a second digit after the decimal point in unofficial online transcripts.

All told, from exam to Banweb to ordering that fourth digit, the process of obtaining grades at the law school ends up making the job-hunt harder, and thus hurts students.

On paper, the grade release policy as currently written makes some sense. As The Hatchet reported in February, professors have a grade submission deadline determined by a formula unique to each professor that accounts for the number of students in each course.

Still, students usually aren’t told when that deadline is, and delays aren’t communicated. Administrators should keep in contact with professors who have difficulty turning in grades on time, and require that they keep students informed.

Communication would relieve stress and help students understand why grades might not be available when promised. Complaints should be dealt with by the appropriate faculty committees on a case-by-case basis.

And Banweb should offer the option of printing an unofficial transcript that is similar to the official version. After holding job application mailings for weeks, students should not have to wait even longer for that fourth GPA digit.

Alex Schneider is a first-year student in the GW Law School.

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