We are aware of a rumor that Fordham's administration is instructing faculty to "crack down on grades," and/or assign more work to students this semester. This is not the case. The genesis of the rumor appears to be this memo which is genuine, but requires clarification and correction: we will be doing so with all instructors within the next day.
This past fall, we saw a troubling pattern of students who, due to significant problems caused by the pandemic, did not attend classes for the entire semester. We realized that, in some cases, students’ academic record did not reflect the fact that they had been unable to attend. In order to process the withdrawals that these students were seeking—that they deserved—we needed to address these issues. Faculty members who awarded passing grades to students who did not actually attend their classes were surely well-meaning, but awarding unearned grades inadvertently caused students significant distress at a time when they were already struggling, for instance, by jeopardizing their eligibility to receive federal financial aid. In addition, awarding passing grades to students who do not attend class puts the University at risk of losing its ability to receive federal funds.
You should know that our offices send a memo like this every semester. As you see in the linked memo, much of the text refers to a standard summary of grade distributions provided to the faculty on a regular basis. Faculty and students alike have long expressed concerns about two items: (a) grade inflation that can affect how graduate schools or employers perceive Fordham students’ transcripts, and (b) arbitrary grading practices that award higher grades to some students and lower grades to others when transparent rubrics are not followed. Arbitrary grading has become a particular concern as Fordham continues to strive for equitable, transparent, and fair practices in all that we do.
Finally, on behalf of Dean Mast and myself, please let me state unequivocally that every conversation we have had with faculty, chairs, program directors, and associate chairs on the topic of student workload and course experiences, both this semester and last, has emphasized the primary importance of valuing student well-being and mental health above all else. Likewise, this has been a constant refrain in the active faculty teaching listserv that is managed by our colleagues Professor Anne Fernald and Steve D'Agustino.
Please accept our apologies if the rumors and/or the memo caused you any distress during an already difficult time.
Laura Auricchio, Ph.D., Dean
Fordham College at Lincoln Center
Maura Mast, Ph.D., Dean
Fordham College at Rose Hill