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Grading and the responsibility of academic freedom

One of the most important responsibilities of academic freedom is the grading system that professors choose to implement in their classes. DLSU Faculty Association (FA) President Dante Leoncini affirms, “Basically, giving grades is part of the academic freedom that professors have. But that is not to say that they are going to grade these students without any basis.

“There are certain criteria that will have to be followed. Some are established by the department itself, as stipulated in the syllabus; but other faculty members have other ways and other criteria [with which] to grade their students.”

Professors can testify to the difficulty of having to grade students. Leoncini says in an August interview with The LaSallian, “Teachers are kind of overworked… papers, tests, reports; all of these add up to their workload, but they have no choice but to give them these anyway because we have to maintain certain standards. And the more work for students means the better they can become, if they take it seriously.”

Certain students take this challenge to heart, and work to deliver sound outputs for all of these requirements. For instance, Tim Chu (III, BS-ME) says in a mix of English and Filipino, “One professor [of mine] gave almost everyone a grade of 2.5 or below, so we were all frustrated because we put so much effort into that subject [and] it’s hard to accept that all your efforts are worth only a 2.5, so it hurts, and it was very frustrating, especially if you were one who was running for the Dean’s List.”

With the efforts of these students is the corresponding responsibility for faculty to grade such requirements fairly and equitably, according to the grading system that they are obligated to have made clear at the start of the term. Problems, however, ensue when such systems are no longer followed, making grading inconsistent and ultimately unjust.

 

Intellectually inconsistent

Ed* (II, AB-OSDM) was once part of a class where the professor gave unusually high grades. At times, performance may not equate to the results one gets. “When I got [my grade], of course I felt really happy but I didn’t feel like I deserved it. Then I asked around, we all had either 3.5’s or 4’s. Nobody did anything about it because we were all pretty damn happy about it.”

This may bring students to question the kind of equity that grading systems are supposed to provide, if any. Not all professors are able to justify, nor clarify a grading system at the beginning of the term, although all are obligated to make clear how they will be grading their students at the beginning of the term. Should the students find that the grading system that professors implement is not to their liking, they are free to drop the course and adjust their courses under a new professor.

The Philippine Constitution of 1987 itself states that academic freedom shall be guaranteed under all institutions of higher learning, and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) itself, according to CMO no. 40 series of 2008, must respect the autonomy of higher educational institutions such as DLSU, having no imposition over how professors grade their students. According to a source’s unofficial statement, even Department Chairs may only recommend how to grade, and may only question grades submitted by professors, but have no authority to demand a change of grades or a re-evaluation of these.

Leoncini clarifies, “If the faculty member determines that the grading system suggested or prescribed by the department is inappropriate or inapplicable in his or her case, the professor is obligated to inform the class during the first day how he or she gives grades. That should be clear.”

Certain professors, however, are unable to give clear metrics as to how they grade their students. Some grade more generously than others, while others, as stated before, give uniformly low grades.

Aldrin Dayauon (III, CAM-ADV) once enrolled in a course where he felt he was unjustly graded, although he had participated actively in reciting and in discussions, because apparently the only criteria which the professor had given out was the final project.

By Juan Batalla

By Dana Uson

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