Summary: I am a STEM graduate student taking a soon-ending class that was divided into 3 parts each under different professors, Alice, Bob and Carol.

There is a conflict in the grading schemes set forth by the different professors' syllabuses (plural). Omitting most of the details as being too specific, the result is that one syllabus will grade more harshly than the other, and that is the syllabus that they are proposing to use for the final grades.

Given my current grade, I will pass the course either way. That said, I believe I can make a case that the professors should follow the more generous grading scheme, which would benefit me significantly. Is conflicting grading schemes across different syllabi generally considered a valid reason to challenge a grade?

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    I have edited to try to get to the heart of the question, removing most extraneous detail, and voted to reopen. – jakebeal Jan 6 '15 at 2:50
  • @jakebeal Did you have to? This was asked and answered quite a while ago already – Jack Bauer Jan 10 '15 at 16:03
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    @Jack It had been closed due to the detail, and was likely on its way to deletion; editing and reopening means that the question and its answers will be preserved for the benefit of others facing similar situations in the future. – jakebeal Jan 10 '15 at 16:20

The majority of the question's text concerns minutiae about syllabi and percentages that are unlikely to be of interest to anyone except the OP. The question would be significantly improved by eliding / summarizing this information and concentrating on the core question:

What happens when multiple, conflicting syllabi are given out for the same course? Does the student have a legitimate grievance when one syllabus is being followed but not the other, at the expense of his grade?

I think these are reasonable questions for our site.

My answer to the first question is: yikes. Three different instructors for the same course, three different syllabi, and one of the instructors (the chair!) does not even know about both of the other syllabi? What a mess. In general having courses taught by more than one faculty member makes things harder and necessitates much more explicit, advanced planning. This course does not sound well-planned. As soon as you get talk about which syllabus is more "official" than the others, things are not going well. I don't think there is a standard, easy answer to this question, and I don't see any coherent answer which does not admit mistakes on the part of the faculty. On the other hand I wonder why this issue did not come up earlier in the course: on the first day of class every student was in possession of two contradictory syllabi and no one noticed? I find that curious and am not sure what to make of it.

My answer to the second question is: yes, I think so. If you show up to some higher administrative official with two syllabi in hand and say that you want to be held to the standard of the syllabus you were given first, you have a good shot at getting some traction on this. However I would encourage you to try to resolve the matter as non-combatively as possible: if you are a graduate student in the program, getting the chair chewed out by (say) her dean is likely to have some effect on your course grade, but it may have other, less pleasant effects down the line. I would begin by doing what you have already done: clearly pointing out the discrepancy between the two syllabi and the significant effect it may/will have on your course grade. You should indicate that you proceeded in the course with an understanding based on the first syllabus that you received and that you would like this to be taken into account in the course grade. Give them a chance to do this for you before you escalate the situation.

Finally, the business about the 75 belonging to two grade ranges: in my opinion you look petty by bringing that up at all (look at the reaction your question has received). The purpose of the grading system being spelled out in advance is for students to be sure they are treated fairly and to be able to have some rough means of predicting what kind of performance will lead to what kind of grade. There is nothing that you or any student would have done differently if 75 belongs to one grade range rather than the other. I agree with other commenters who said that the time you spent complaining about that would be better spent learning the material and improving your performance in the course. Mixing legitimate, serious grading concerns with "grade-grubbing" is not a good strategy.

  • Regarding the last part, the fact that 75 was in both grade ranges suggests that it was a mistake and that the passing is 60 instead of 65 as it was last year, and I was right. Is it not right to clarify the difference between 60 and 65 BEFORE I end up with, say, a 64 for a final grade and failing mark in my transcript (which would lead me to a long appeal grade change process)? Anyway, thanks for the question title edit and simplifying my question. I'll talk to chair Carol again. Btw, it's not 3 different syllabi/syllabuses. Bob followed Carol. Alice had her own syllabus. – Jack Bauer Oct 5 '14 at 1:27
  • Mr/Ms Clark, how do you find this?: goes to office "Hello again ma'am. About the two syllabuses thing...actually I would like to the point out that the syllabus of Dr Alice was given to us a week before the other syllabus. I proceeded in the course based on the first syllabus. Given that, are we still following the other syllabus?" If Chair Carol insists, I'll give it up. I think I can pass if I give it my all this week. – Jack Bauer Oct 5 '14 at 1:46
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    @Jack: Regarding honorifics: the nice thing about talking to academics is you have a convenient gender-neutral choice: Dr. And in the case of Pete L. Clark it happens to also be correct. :-) – Nate Eldredge Jan 5 '15 at 2:11
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    I apologize for necro posting, but this matter of honorifics intrigues me. I have avoided using Dr unless I was completely certain that the academic in question has a doctorate, which while often the case is not always so (many academics coming from industry do not, instead carrying great research experience considered equivalent to a doctorate). Would it be considered offencive or patronizing to call someone Dr if they turn out not to have a doctorate or is it still polite if perhaps ignorant sounding? – Vality Apr 30 '15 at 6:48
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    @Vality I wouldn't say it's impolite, offensive or patronizing, but I think it would be weird on Academia SE if you just assumed everyone replying had a doctorate. As for real life, I think it's best to assume faculty members have doctorates if speaking personally. If you are contacting a faculty member by e-mail or text, there's linkedin and other stuff so I don't think you will be confused if you do your research unless say said faculty member is currently ABD yet states a year graduated from PhD, which is what happened to me hahahaha en.wiktionary.org/wiki/offencive – Jack Bauer May 19 '15 at 19:04

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