ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Professors at St. Cloud State University say courses have disappeared from some students’ transcripts with no input from instructors who gave them bad grades.
They said they’re not sure how widespread the problem is, but that with the exception of a few instances, the university’s failure to notify them of grade changes is an ethical breach.
“A number of faculty members raised concerns that they believed from what they were seeing that student’s grades were actually disappearing off transcripts. A student would take a course, get a poor grade, and then a semester or two later that grade would not appear on the transcript at all,” faculty association president Stephen Hornstein told Minnesota Public Radio for a story Monday (http://bit.ly/1bpLBzY).
Professor Tamara Leenay last spring came across the transcript of a student who failed an organic chemistry class she taught a couple of years earlier.
“I noticed the course was not even on his transcript,” Leenay said. “There was no ‘F.” There was no course number. … It was completely gone. And I have [a] record that he was in my class and that I gave him a grade … and I was never notified of any of these changes.”
Students can petition to have a course removed from a transcript. And professors say a late withdrawal or deleting a course from the transcript is appropriate in some instances beyond a student’s control, such as illness, family medical issues or military deployment. But under university rules, administrators are required to notify the course instructor whenever they change a grade.
“The thing here is that they weren’t being changed, they were going away,” Hornstein said. “And we weren’t being informed of that.”
Provost Devinder Molhotra said it became clear that official protocols were not being followed, so he issued a memo in January to deans and associate deans reiterating the policy. He stopped short of saying the university had fixed a problem. Instead, he said, by reviewing the process in which transcripts are changed, the university improved it.
In reviewing a sample of 237 transcripts changed between July 2011 and June 2012, the university found that administrators responsible for making the changes consulted faculty in 69 percent of the cases. In the other 31 percent, it wasn’t clear if the faculty member was notified or whether the faculty member was told but didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“Integrity of transcripts and the record is very, very important and so is the involvement of the faculty in that process,” Molhotra said.
Faculty involvement is critical because they have the primary responsibility for teaching and evaluating the performance of their students, said Robert Kreiser, a senior program officer at the American Association of University Professors.
“Interference with the faculty’s role in that regard by an administrative officer in any way, including the deletion of previously recorded grades, is inconsistent with basic principles of academic freedom and faculty governance,” he said.
Faculty members said they’re trying to keep a closer eye on the process, and they’re asking the administration to issue regular reports that detail transcript changes.