2 added 20 characters in body
source | link

It is worth thinking about what services a university is actually providing, and to whom. If all you wanted from your university was to teach you courses and give you a grade at the end, you could enroll in internet classes at little (or no) cost. Most universities -- especially expensive ones -- are also certifying competence and providing prestige to their graduates. That is why you are paying them the big bucks. This only works if the grades themselves are not negotiable in the sense you mean. At a very elite university there will be considerable resources available for the student and steps taken to try to ensure thetheir success, and the average GPA may be higher than at some other universities. But I taught calculus at Harvard for several years, and every time there were some students who got D's and F's. A B- in calculus at Harvard is a discouraging grade -- literally; it is meant to signal to the student to seriously shape up or not continue studying math -- but it does certify some amount of calculus knowledge. To get an A in calculus at Harvard you must indeed be very good at the subject: Harvard wouldn't be a top American university if it gave top grades to students who had not mastered the material.

It is worth thinking about what services a university is actually providing, and to whom. If all you wanted from your university was to teach you courses and give you a grade at the end, you could enroll in internet classes at little (or no) cost. Most universities -- especially expensive ones -- are also certifying competence and providing prestige to their graduates. That is why you are paying them the big bucks. This only works if the grades themselves are not negotiable in the sense you mean. At a very elite university there will be considerable resources available for the student and steps taken to try to ensure the success, and the GPA may be higher at other universities. But I taught calculus at Harvard for several years, and every time there were some students who got D's and F's. A B- in calculus at Harvard is a discouraging grade -- literally; it is meant to signal to the student to seriously shape up or not continue studying math -- but it does certify some amount of calculus knowledge. To get an A in calculus at Harvard you must indeed be very good at the subject: Harvard wouldn't be a top American university if it gave top grades to students who had not mastered the material.

It is worth thinking about what services a university is actually providing, and to whom. If all you wanted from your university was to teach you courses and give you a grade at the end, you could enroll in internet classes at little (or no) cost. Most universities -- especially expensive ones -- are also certifying competence and providing prestige to their graduates. That is why you are paying them the big bucks. This only works if the grades themselves are not negotiable in the sense you mean. At a very elite university there will be considerable resources available for the student and steps taken to try to ensure their success, and the average GPA may be higher than at some other universities. But I taught calculus at Harvard for several years, and every time there were some students who got D's and F's. A B- in calculus at Harvard is a discouraging grade -- literally; it is meant to signal to the student to seriously shape up or not continue studying math -- but it does certify some amount of calculus knowledge. To get an A in calculus at Harvard you must indeed be very good at the subject: Harvard wouldn't be a top American university if it gave top grades to students who had not mastered the material.

1
source | link

Given some of the answers and comments on the question I'm curious, how did this mentality that marks are non-negotiable arise? There seems to be the belief the prof has a totalitarian rule over the students. This doesn't make sense, especially considering how commercialized some schools have become. In any other area of business if a client pays (e.g. a student pays tuition) and is dissatisfied or has a concern about a service, then the company would work with them and either explain or change some part of the contract.

I don't think "non-negotiable" is the right word. Marks can be questioned and even challenged. However such challenges are (outside of the movie Clueless) not negotiations, because that implies a business transaction in which the student is offering something in return.

[Also, professors do not have "totalitarian rule" over the students. We don't have any "rule" over the students. We can only ask them to do certain limited things and they get to decide whether to do them or not. It is of course very common for students to drop or exchange a class because they are not happy with some aspect of how it is being run. This is really the antithesis of totalitarian rule.]

Grading is not a business transaction. You seem to think (or at least be willing to argue) that modern academia is a business transaction in which the student is the client and the instructor is the service provider. Well, there is some truth to that, but it also has severe limitations. (By the way, I have found that most businesses whose services I enlist as a paying client have severe limitations on how they are willing to work with me or (especially) change part of the contract in response to my complaints. The threat of losing my business does something in some cases and very little in others.)

It is worth thinking about what services a university is actually providing, and to whom. If all you wanted from your university was to teach you courses and give you a grade at the end, you could enroll in internet classes at little (or no) cost. Most universities -- especially expensive ones -- are also certifying competence and providing prestige to their graduates. That is why you are paying them the big bucks. This only works if the grades themselves are not negotiable in the sense you mean. At a very elite university there will be considerable resources available for the student and steps taken to try to ensure the success, and the GPA may be higher at other universities. But I taught calculus at Harvard for several years, and every time there were some students who got D's and F's. A B- in calculus at Harvard is a discouraging grade -- literally; it is meant to signal to the student to seriously shape up or not continue studying math -- but it does certify some amount of calculus knowledge. To get an A in calculus at Harvard you must indeed be very good at the subject: Harvard wouldn't be a top American university if it gave top grades to students who had not mastered the material.

Sometimes it helps to make the situation more extreme. If you think that "the student should always be right", perform this thought experiment: I will offer you the opportunity to take the COSATs, a consumer-oriented variant of the SATs. Every student who takes my exam will pass. In fact, every student who gets less than the 50th percentile will have their score reported as "satisfactory". And that's just for basic members. Silver members will be allowed to answer again the questions that they got wrong and will have their exams rescored. Gold members will be offered the same service together with additional instructional materials that will include complete and comprehensive answers to all exam questions. Platinum members get online access to the materials while taking the exam, in a patented "one-click: correct!" format. Of course the COSATs will cost money -- so do the SATs! But actually basic membership is cheaper than the SATs and silver, gold and platinum membership is surprisingly competitively priced. Are you interested?