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I have marked several writing assignments for this course and the grade grubbing from this cohort was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced as a TA.

The primary instructor and I were given a heads up from the previous semesters instructors and therefore we established some ground rules between us.

  1. students wishing to discuss grades were to email me since I do all the marking.
  2. I would review the requests for regrading and unless an egregious error occurred I wouldn’t change the grade.
  3. all requests beyond that are to go to the faculty for a formal remark and that grade is final.

On the third and final paper. A student emailed the primary prof and not me to complain about their grade. They argued every other grade unsuccessfully this semester. The primary prof. Cc: me and asked the student to reach out to me which they never did. Today as I was finalizing. I noted that the grade had been changed by primary prof and added 10% even though their policy was no grade change and by the rubric they had earned their other grade.

I feel really undermined especially since the agreement between us was to talk to me. It only makes it worse that this student was atrocious to me in office hours and didn’t even want help improving their papers. Just to yell at me for their grade.

I’m not really sure how to talk to the prof about this when these were their own rules she broke.

Update: spoke with prof. Turns out the student responded to just them after that cc. And that I told them to “speak with prof” — all of which did not happen. So the student lied and grade grubbed the primary prof.

The grades have now been submitted and the primary prof has decided it’s not a fight they want to take up about the lying.

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  • 4
    Will you have to work for this professor again?
    – cag51
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 20:18
  • 7
    I have agreed to do this course again with them next semester. I genuine love them as a prof. They have the same work style/humour as myself and are invested in helping me grow into an educator in academia. It’s just this one issue that left me completely blindsided. But after a discussion. It was actually the student lying and her just being too busy at the end of the semester to follow up with me that ended up happening. Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 2:17
  • 7
    The words that jumped out at me were "this student was atrocious to me". It sounds very much like you've become emotionally involved with this student's outcome here and that you feel like they deserve to fail. Every single they do is going to irk you because you (naturally and understandably) don't like them. My advice is to step back, take a very deep breath and then move on with your life.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 7:23
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    @DikranMarsupial Lies over email (especially about timing) are very easy to prove.
    – user121330
    Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 17:31
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    I could prove it because my office hours are only zoom and have to be requested by email. Of which there will be no email record for them to provide. I have no in person contact with students. However, I am just letting this go at the request of my prof. Who doesn’t want to deal with it (she’s had a bad year) and just said the student “got lucky”. Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 0:11

5 Answers 5

48

I suggest that you ignore the issue and move on. The professor is the authority figure here. There may be reasons, even stupid ones, that the professor has.

But, once the decision is made, rightly or not, changing it will cause problems that will reflect badly on you.

Not everything is right in academia, but this seems not to be the hill to die on. Stuff happens. Sit back and have a culturally appropriate beverage.

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    A little update. I spoke with the prof. I guess the student lied and said she had talked to me and I told her to speak with the prof. But grades are now submitted and it’s their final course for their degree so she says it’s not a hill worth dying on. Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 0:55
  • 1
    Re 'There may be reasons, even stupid ones, that the professor has.' Actually my thought is like IF the professor says something like 'Actually, I have certain reasons, but they're private (eg privacy of particular student)', then ok makes sense. But as it stands, eh. @LoopyStrings perhaps the prof just hasn't really thought of this particular wording, but this is really what the prof intended to say?
    – BCLC
    Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 5:49
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    Yeah, stuff happens. But if we let these little things go, they grow into big things. I'll bet $15 that this student has done the exact same thing in every class. Since she lied to the prof to get a grade changed, she should be brought up on academic dishonesty charges (by the prof.) She needs to learn a lesson and your prof will be a hero when all the previous TA's and prof's hear about it.
    – B. Goddard
    Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 13:07
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    @B.Goddard But that's the professor's decision to make.
    – Passer By
    Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 13:25
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    @PasserBy That's why I said, "by the prof." I'm saying the prof is wrong for letting this go. I know of a case where a master's candidate plagiarized her thesis. When she was caught, they found out that she had cheated in every class from freshman through the end of master's degree. She confessed that she knew zero math. She couldn't integrate $x^2$, and was within inches of getting a master's in math. She was only caught because someone on her committee just had happened to read the paper she copied.
    – B. Goddard
    Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 17:52
14

I concur with @Buffy .

Your post suggests that this occurred just once, for one student on the last assignment, and that there were many times when it might have but didn't. That suggests that on the whole the division of labor worked pretty well in a situation you both knew in advance might often be difficult.

If you are on general good terms with her you might ask when you next see her why she changed this grade. Don't be accusatory nor suggest that you feel "undermined". Just curious. Be sure to indicate that there might well be private reasons you're not entitled to know.

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    I adore this prof and her strict no “splitting” or whining to her about grades the TA gives policy. So that’s why I was so shocked. Turns out the student lied to her and said she talked to me and that I told them to goto her. I think she was just too busy to double check with me. But now grades are submitted and we’ll… the student got away with it. Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 0:44
  • 3
    Thanks for the feedback. You might edit it into the end of the question to keep the community informed. Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 0:50
  • 1
    Ah good call ;) Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 0:56
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Don't do anything till you have all the facts, which in this case means ask the professor why she changed the grade. Be diplomatic; it could be a mistake. You could also say it surprised you, since you were expecting to be cc'ed. After she tells you the reason, then you can decide what you want to do next.

If the professor stands her ground on changing the grade (should be reasonably obvious from her explanation), then it's not advisable to argue, since she's the ultimate authority responsible for the course. But you could decide not to work with her anymore.

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  • 'If the professor stands her ground on changing the grade ' --> That's ok if this is the case I guess. But IS IT? I think that's an key issue here.
    – BCLC
    Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 3:37
2

I mostly agree with @Buffy, but would add:

I would review the requests for regrading and unless an egregious error occurred I wouldn’t change the grade.

Personally I would fix non-egregious errors if they would justify any change in the grade/mark. The most important thing is that the student gets good feedback so that they can learn from their mistakes (and getting things right). However the next most important thing is getting the grading right, so if you didn't get it quite right the first time round, then fix it. Being professional means taking quality control seriously. It is unprofessional to think you don't make mistakes or being reluctant to admit or correct them.

"Just to yell at me for their grade."

If that happens, report them to the member of faculty for inappropriate/unprofessional behaviour, and do it in writing (email). It is best for the TA that did the marking to deal with questions about the marks and feedback in the first instance, but they are not being paid to deal with unreasonable behaviour, so I make sure they know that I will step in when that happens.

If the lecturer changes their mark, then that is their responsibility not yours so it is their error if it was not correct. Ultimately they have final responsibility for all marks, so they do have a right to amend the mark if they think that is the correct thing to do.

-1

I recommend you just resolve not to work for this professor again. That is poor educational practice and it obviously incentivises "grade-grubbing", which is highly undesirable. If you particularly want to give feedback to this professor you should feel free to do so; just make sure it is calm, clear and constructive. After that, do TA work for other professors instead.

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    Hmmm. Not all TAs get a choice in who they work for. You may be setting up an unnecessary conflict. And you are assuming things not stated and suggesting the OP act while lacking certain knowledge.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 23:45
  • I'm not sure what I'm assuming beyond what is stated. OP states the agreed process and then sets out facts that contradict that process. I think he has good cause to be aggreived in that case.
    – Ben
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 23:54
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    You are assuming the OP is a party to the conversation between the student and the prof and that the decision was made on improper grounds. You don't know that, actually.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 23, 2022 at 23:56
  • I'm not assuming that; I just think it is poor educational practice to depart from the agreed process to begin with (i.e., by allowing the matter to go directly to the professor, bypassing the TA). That already undermines the agreed role of the TA irrespective of what occurs in the conversation between the professor and student.
    – Ben
    Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 0:27
  • 1
    Always difficult to judge from a single personal account of any event en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashomon Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 8:54

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