Grade Grubbing – Or Why I Won’t Change Your Grade

At the beginning of the school year, I tell students their grades are a reflection of their performance. As a teacher, when it comes to grades I am simply a scorekeeper who tracks the quality of their work through points. Wherever the points fall at the end of the semester is their grade. I remind students it is not a matter of how much I like them, I simply enter the calculated grade. This does not mean throughout the semester students can’t appeal an assignment grade they find unfair. If a student completes an assignment and truly feels there was a mistake in my grading, I am more than happy to look at it again. However, it is unacceptable to receive a request for a higher grade at the end of the semester. 

This was my last semester teaching Oral Communication at a state university, and I received two requests to change grades. When I responded to one student explaining I would not change her/his grade, s/he responded again to make a claim for an increased score. I’m not sure why students feel they are entitled to request a higher grade. Although a student feels s/he deserves a grade, it definitely does not mean s/he earned it. Taking preventative measures can lead to a decrease in these requests.

Dr. Ryan McGeough created a document he includes in his syllabus to decrease “grade grubbing” at the end of the semester. With his permission, I am sharing it with you to adjust as you see fit to handle “grade grubbers” in the future.

Professionalism Inside & Outside of the Classroom, and Why “Grade-Grubbing” is a Very Bad Thing to Do
Dr. Ryan McGeough

Despite the fact that I think this information should not have to be included in my syllabi, previous experience indicates that it does, thus I apologize to those of you who do not regularly engage in the end of the semester rituals of “grade-grubbing.” I am unsure where you as students got the notion that grades are a “starting point” as though you are purchasing a car or something, for it is both highly unprofessional and unacceptable to negotiate grades with your professors. After submitting final grades at the end of the semester, I am typically inundated with emails regarding grades, and wanting them changed to reflect what you “think” they should be, and not what they actually are. This practice of “grade-grubbing” is unfortunately increasing across college campuses nationwide, and I am astonished to have students questioning both my fairness and my ethics regarding their grades, and I find this completely unacceptable. This may be part of the student culture at LSU or in other academic institutions that you have been enrolled in, but I will not participate in it. Please do not contact me with the expectation of me changing your grades. I do not negotiate grades. I spend a great deal of time grading student work, and find it extremely disrespectful when students question my fairness, ethics, and accuracy. Essentially, what you are doing when asking to have a grade changed, is for me to be unfair—if I granted this request to someone other than you, you would be outraged, but if I granted your request, you would most likely see it as fair. To me, it is entirely unfair to treat one student differently (better or worse) than any other student.

And, here is something for you to think about…consider how this “grade-grubbing” appears to your professors, whom you may later need to write you a letter of reference or recommendation for a job, internship, or graduate school. What image do you want to leave with your professors? I know that I have students from 6 and 7 years ago still contacting me for recommendations, and for those that have “grade grubbed” I am hesitant to recommend to a potential employer or graduate school, for I know of the limited range of their professional behavior. Thus, I typically refuse to write letters of recommendation for grade grubbing students, despite their requests. In sum, consider carefully how your actions may impact your present and future, as well as your overall professional image. I apologize to those of you who do not engage in regular “grade-grubbing” rituals to even have to read this, but I feel this information is necessary for all students to stop the unprofessional practices of grade negotiations, which can only harm your careers here at LSU, as well as your future careers.


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