Apologies if this is not the place for such a question. I've seen elsewhere that other professors reserve the right to change syllabi midsemester. However, it's been brought to my attention that a course in my department has had its syllabus drastically altered. Specifically the grade percentages were reweighted (homework went down, exams went up) after the assignments had been submitted, and a project that was supposed to be 40% of the students' grades was removed from the syllabus (as the professor apparently just never assigned it). Students are now being graded out of the remaining 60%. As such, students who expected to be able to use the project to recover their grade (or in some cases move up entire letter grades) have come to me recently to ask for advice on how to proceed, but I haven't had a good answer for them. I just haven't seen something like this before.

There is another post about dropping a 20 percent attendance portion, but it was unclear from the post if this was to the students' benefit. Another post had homework going from 10% to 20%, which harmed an individual student. In this case, from historical data from the class, students perform highest on the project, and lowest on the exams, and these two shifts seem to have negatively impacted nearly all students in the class, but boosted a few who did well on the exams. Students say that the instructor said there are no plans for additional adjustments (i.e. a curve, or lowering letter grade thresholds)

I wanted to ask here if any (US) academics had seen similar situations before. This seems like something that is not fair to students, but I am unsure as to what actions (if any) can be taken here, and if this is something I should somehow report "up the chain" and go hands off. I am not familiar with my university's policy on if syllabi can be changed mid-semester (I have never needed to do so, and any edits I have seen in the past have been minor or only to the students' benefit), and didn't know where to look for such a policy. Again, I understand that syllabi can change, but this seems to be a drastic change with drastic ramifications on students' grades, and therefore their health, hence my concern. Any recommendations for what I should communicate to the students are welcome.

  • 2
    What exactly is your relation to the professor and their students? Are you the department head? A colleague of the professor?
    – quarague
    Commented May 24 at 10:37
  • Colleague of the professor, I don't know them personally but have met in passing. Both of us are relatively new: tenure track but neither of us are tenured, hence why I would prefer to go up to people more senior in the department. Students coming to me are former students. Commented May 24 at 15:21
  • 3
    It's great that your former students think of you as someone to consult about this sort of problem. Unfortunately, without tenure, you probably can't do much to correct the situation. There should be someone in your department officially in charge of such matters (maybe the chair, or, in large departments like mine, an associate chair). I recommend that you inform that person about what's going on. (Long ago, I was that associate chair, and I'd certainly have wanted to be informed.) Commented May 24 at 16:39


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