Years ago, in my book, I wrote how a state university had an unwritten policy for faculty to pass 85% of their students. To clarify, any faculty who did not meet this “standard” would find his career cut short. I’ll double down on this by noting the university also allowed students to register for the same course but two different faculty, in the same semester—this led to faculty being in direct competition with each other to offer the most minimal of coursework, with whoever dared to assign even a single page of reading at risk of losing his job—a student which dropped such a “monster” of a professor in favor of an easier professor would count against the monster’s failure rate.
“I can serve coffee and donuts and still not make 85%”
–another faculty at the school complaining how unfair the policy was, as you generally had 20% of the names on the roster never show up and/or drop the course. Less honorable faculty quickly found a way, as my next anecdote will show.
I said this years ago, and I can understand why a reader would discount such ravings on the internet…but, hey, look, now we see faculty opening complaining about this “unwritten” policy:
“DFW” refers to the three ways a professor can lose a student in the course. “D” is for the D grade, it’s not failing, but generally not good enough for course credit (i.e., it can easily delay graduation). “F” is for “Fail”—usually the students are given so long to drop a course that only comatose or otherwise clueless students actually fail. “W” is for “Withdraw,” where a student leaves campus; this can happen for many reasons which have nothing to do with the teacher of the course (for example, the student may die, or may be put on military deployment, or may get terminal cancer, among other “remote” possibilities which are regular enough occurrences with today’s class sizes).
“The overall rate is absurd, the lumping of the W with the D and F is absurd, and it captures how integrity is being sacrificed on the ‘don’t let enrollment drop’ altar by bureaucrats.”
Even though a withdrawing student might have nothing to with the faculty, the faculty can still be penalized. The gentle reader should keep this is mind if he considers my best rule for fixing higher ed, namely eliminating all administrative positions where the title of the position is longer than twice the title holder’s name, too draconian…many rules admin uses are so unfair that I feel no need to treat them any better.
Registrar, at a policy change meeting: “Due to a glitch, a number of students in various courses were enrolled in courses accidentally. They didn’t know they were in the course, so never showed up for class or did assignments, and didn’t know what was going on until they received their report card. We need to change the policy to allow students to drop late, for this reason.”
Me: “Of these students that did absolutely nothing, about how many failed?”
Registrar: “2/3rds failed. The rest got A’s, but complained because it cut into their loan disbursements.”
Me: “To be clear, 1/3 of the students that literally did absolutely nothing still got an A for their coursework?”
–I repeat this story, as it’s eyewitness testimony of clear evidence that around 1/3 of the coursework on that campus was utterly and completely bogus. Yes, I know, I could just as easily cite a book saying as much. In any event, this sort of fraud happens for a reason.
Now, that’s my own anecdote, above. Let’s see what faculty are saying in the article I linked:
But professors there didn’t know until recently that the rate at which they give D and F grades and see students withdraw from their courses was impacting the tenure and promotion process.
Now, I’m no jerk, I sure want every one of my students to pass the course. I also have integrity, however, and realize that most of education is self-directed. No matter what I do in class, the student must study to be able to demonstrate that he knows the material. I like having integrity, but now faculty positions are often just to rubber stamp that the student passed the course.
The average cost of a college degree is well over $100,000. Shouldn’t it mean more than just a bunch of rubber stamps?
I really think integrity should be an issue here, but higher education is so debased that, strangely, this isn’t the problem:
However one feels about the validity of DFW rates in the tenure and promotion process, what’s clear at Savannah State is that this was never approved through shared governance channels or articulated in the Faculty Handbook. So some professors are apparently being judged on a criterion of which they were previously unaware.
“Wait. I didn’t know I was being paid to support fraud.” strikes me as a weird objection, but that’s what faculty are reduced to today. One usually gets the memo about being at a fake school early on, and certainly over the course of the years it takes to get even a minor promotion as faculty, it should have come up.
The quotes above are for Savannah State University in Georgia, but I assure the gentle reader it’s a popular unwritten policy at many schools. Another school in the same state said it officially doesn’t happen, but faculty claim otherwise:
Georgia Southern University’s Faculty Senate successfully fought against the inclusion of DFW rates in annual evaluations, in 2012. Gregory Brock, a professor of economics at Georgia Southern who campaigned against the DFW criteria at the time, said this week via email that he was once advised by his chair to “get below 20 percent.”
I’m sure, in writing, it doesn’t happen, but faculty are verbally told things much like the above many times. So, I claimed to have worked at the past in a state university where the DFW rate needed to be below 15%…and here we see someone else saying it needed to be below 20%.
Please understand, many faculty get this memo and sell out immediately (I left the place before my eventual firing). I so hated watching praise and promotions heaped on faculty who did nothing for education, even as admin praised their “good teaching” and getting 100% passing rate for the course.
As I saw in my community college anecdote above, all you have to do to be considered an effective teacher is give everyone in the class an A, even if they never even showed up for class a single time. And yet this is the very definition of “award winning” teaching on many campuses today.
A faculty member who did not want to be identified by name said in an interview that faculty concern “has to do with expectations when it comes to what they need to do for tenure or promotion. They’re now being judged on this new metric, having already submitted their portfolios, with no prior knowledge of it.”
I end by demonstrating the culture of fear on campus is still dominating, as faculty know better than complain in a way admin might know who to fire. Many of our campuses are ruled by thugs who know nothing of education, who occupy our universities for the sole purpose of plundering the student loan money at every opportunity.
And, clearly, campuses in Georgia fit that description. What’s missing in the article is administration’s role in this, beyond encouraging academic fraud. One comment summarizes this issue nicely:
Well, darn. Looks like D and F students should now result in automatic dismissal of admissions officers. Admit a D or F student, lose your job. Professors don’t decide who is admitted and often don’t decide who can take their courses. That’s admin’s responsibility.
Administration has reduced entrance standards precipitously, and so we have many basically illiterate students flooding our campuses now, paid for by the student loan scam. Faculty could mitigate the damage these students do to themselves by failing them but…faculty who do this get fired.
Meanwhile, the admin who lowered standards are the same admin who are telling faculty to pass the students are the same admin who are firing faculty who don’t keep that 80% (or whatever) pass rate in the courses. And the poor kids who are burying themselves in debt for this “rubber stamp degree” won’t find out until years later how they’ve been defrauded by this system.
Oh well, at least the leaders who run our higher education system will get to retire on some nice lakefront property.
Kevin is founder of the world.edu project. The past 28 years have been involved in publishing to the education sector in print and the internet. Kevin has a degree in Education and has a many years experience in developing companies and projects.