Undeserved A’s: Not as good as they sound

At the start of every semester, professors lay down a set of strict rules and regulations. Over and over again students have heard the consequences of plagiarism, tardiness and absences.

In Monday’s edition of the Oracle, graduate assistant Andrew Kurcan accused adjunct professor Robert Romanski of unethical grading practices. A formal investigation has yet to be launched, but the accusation still leads to the question of how students are earning their grades – or professors are earning their keep.

“If a faculty member wants to resolve a problem by giving grades that are totally undeserved, it’s up to them,” said Ron Jones, the dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts in Monday’s Oracle.

It is likely many students were amazed to learn that it isn’t against the rules to allow teachers to give grades that are unearned. They may also have been a little scared – for example no one wants to be under the knife of a doctor who was given passing grades without having to work for it.

Also found by graduate assistants were thirty plagiarized papers submitted to Romanski. According to the accusation, no action was taken against the plagiarists.

Plagiarism is cheating. If the accusations are true, then the message sent to students is not only that they can get away with taking the easy way out, but also that there’s nothing reprehensible about stealing the works of others. The former is not fair to those who actually work for their grade and the latter is flat-out wrong.

The very notion of schoolwork is that it is just that- work. Most individuals attending universities are there for degrees, and the value of a degree is generally judged by the amount of effort required to earn it. Giving professors the power to hand out whatever grades they like regardless of whether students earned them not only invites laziness on the part of professors, but also undermines the entire idea of academic rigor – an unnerving thought for serious students and administrators at a Research-I institution such as USF.

If professors are the ultimate authority on students’ grades, what system of checks and balances is in place to ensure professors aren’t merely handing out grades as they see fit because it’s easier than doing things properly? Sure, students can petition grades they feel are improperly assessed, but what student would petition an A when a D was deserved?

Accusations with the magnitude of those brought against Romanski fortunately are rare, and the University would inarguably be a better place if they were proven untrue. Nevertheless, the fact that they have been raised begs the reconsideration of some of the absolute powers vested in professors, lest USF risk becoming a diploma mill masquerading as a proper research university.