Pomona Considers Grade Policy Update

After initial discussions last year, Pomona
College is considering changes to its grade dispute policy. Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum announced the proposed update in an email to the college’s student body Oct. 7, officially opening a 30-day comment period in which students can submit feedback about the policy. 

The old policy, which Feldblum said raised concerns among some students and faculty members, relied on an ‘ad hoc’ committee comprising various members of the academic department in question. The new policy refers grade dispute petitions to the Academic Procedures Committee—a more transparent process, Feldblum said. 

“It’s very clear who’s the chair, who’re the community members,” Feldblum said.

As Feldblum wrote in her email, a grade dispute is not a dispute between a student and a
professor over whether the professor accurately judged the quality of a
student’s work. A grade dispute can be
made, according to existing policy, when “a student has substantial grounds for believing that a
particular grade was assigned in a manner that was arbitrary or unjust, or that
crucial evidence was not taken into account.”

“This isn’t a question of whether [the professor] made the right evaluation,” said Margaret Adorno, the Pomona registrar and an Academic Procedures Committee member. “This is if the student feels that the grading was truly unfair.”

The APC is made up of both faculty members and students. If the committee were to determine that a student’s petition for a grade dispute is sound, it would decide to hear a grade dispute.

“The committee would actually act as a gatekeeper, in a good way,” Feldblum said.

Maggie Lemons PO ’17 supports the policy change.

“I think that moving away from the committee members being in your department helps remove any conflicts of interest that may arise,” she said. 

Martin Sicilian PO ’17 said he supports the change as long as the administration takes comments seriously.  

Feldblum does not expect that the volume of grade disputes will change after the policy
is implemented. In her eight years as
dean, she has come across only two grade disputes, and she does not believe that students have been waiting for a more structured process to express grievances. However, she did note the possibility for an increase in petitions. 

Michael Diercks, an assistant professor of linguistics and cognitive science at Pomona as well as an APC member, agreed with Feldblum’s view, emphasizing that the new policy’s goal is not to encourage the proliferation of grade disputes but to ensure that legitimate grade disputes are not discouraged. 

“The intention is to create, very transparently, a structure by which [a grade] dispute can go forward,” he said.

the policy has received very few comments so far, Feldblum said that she will continue to support opportunities for student involvement in policy changes.  

“Any policy that I’m involved with that we can have a comment period, I
want a comment period,” Feldblum said.

If there
are few proposed revisions to the new policy by either faculty members or
students, the faculty will vote on whether to incorporate this policy at their
meeting next month.

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