Is a C+ worth $1,300,000?
Graduate student, Megan Thode, thinks so. In the fall of 2009 Megan was a student at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. In one of her classes she received a C+ grade which she claims was unfair and affected her future earnings.
Megan was taking a fieldwork class that was required to move on to the next level. Her goal was to earn a masters in counseling in order to become a professional therapist. However, 25% of the grade for this class was based on classroom participation. Her professor reported that Megan’s outbursts in class, including swearing and crying, contributed to her getting a zero for this part of the grade. Consequently, she received a C+ for the class which kept her out of the counseling program. Instead, Megan graduated with a masters in human development and works as a drug and alcohol counselor.
Still brooding over her C+ grade, she filed a lawsuit against the University and her professor asking for $1.3 million in damages and a grade change. A judge is hearing the case with a decision expected in February or March, 2013.
Her professor explained in her testimony that Megan “received the grade she earned.” Megan claims that since she was an activist for LGBT rights at school, her professor held this against her as reflected in the grade she got for the class. Her professor denies this allegation.
We don’t know where the $1.3 million figure comes from, but we doubt as a recent graduate (2009 or 2010) that her earnings over two or three years would have been even close to this. It may be future earnings she may have earned had she been allowed to obtain her counseling degree. Guess we’ll have to wait for the judge’s ruling. What do you think?
Update: On February 14, 2013, Judge Emil Giordano decided that the university didn’t breach any contract with Megan or sexually discriminate against her. Her lawsuit was dismissed. It’s rare that a court gets involved in academic decisions. The U.S. Supreme Court has commented that it has no interest in micro-managing the country’s education system. In November, 2013, Thode’s motion for a new trial was denied.
In November, 2014, Pennsylvania’s highest court ruled against Thode stating “We decline to hold that Thode’s grade was an abuse of discretion.” Restating basically what the Supreme Court ruled in earlier cases, “Courts lack the expertise to micromanage the complex and highly subjective endeavor of academic grading. Attempting to do so would invite an increase in difficult and time-consuming lawsuits by students who are disgruntled over grades, courses, teachers of other academic requirements.”