In one of my software engineering courses, the syllabus includes two exams (midterm + final), daily quizzes + participation mark, spot quizzes and a group project.

A lot of us asked the professor to drop the midterm and add more weight to the project because we all wanted to build a beautiful project, so eventually we can also add it to our resume. The response was that it would not be possible to drop the midterm but the weight might be reduced, but would have to think about it. (Fair enough).

However, a week later we found out that one of the students in class got exemption from writing midterms, daily quizzes and spot quizzes. That student only has to worry about the project. We asked how this is possible and we learned of a special deal with the professor. So basically when the group projects begin that student will in charge of holding group meetings with different groups and providing feedback to the professor on their progress. So since they have a lot of "workload" they won't be writing quizzes and exams. This option was never mentioned by the professor when the class as a whole asked her to drop the midterm.

So I am wondering, is this legal or even possible? There are a lot of international students in the class too that are simply scared to speak up. I feel it is not fair that one student is exempt from doing all the work.

What should I do? Just keep quiet and mind my own business?

This is a Graduate Computer Science Program.

Additional Details

In the first two weeks the other student wrote quizzes like everyone else and the professor was not happy with the grades of quizzes of some people (everyone except this one person had good marks), so it will be worth a little less. Eventually a week later the student stopped writing quizzes after making this special deal.

I have great relation with the Department Chair and I am also working on a project with them, I am not sure if I should bring this up in our conversation.

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    Have you considered that the student may have some health problems or personal circumstances that they don't want to share with the whole class, and this is why the professor made special arrangements for them?
    – user141592
    Mar 25, 2015 at 17:01
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    @Johanna Did consider it. Infact he is only taking 1 course this semester others are taking 3 or 4. Mar 25, 2015 at 17:44
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    Is he or will he be hindering towards your success? If not, then solve your problems first and then those of others.
    – rassa45
    Oct 30, 2015 at 2:52
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    I had a physics class where on the last day, the professor excused one student from having to take the final exam, based on her performance elsewhere in the class. It had exactly zero effect on my grade, so good for her. And good for your fellow student. May you one day be so talented and fortunate as to make a similar impression on a future professor.
    – DLS3141
    Oct 30, 2015 at 4:30
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    @JackBauer Does democracy not request transparency? -- With extremely rare exceptions, the classroom is not a democracy.
    – JeffE
    Jul 10, 2016 at 19:48

4 Answers 4


The arrangements that the professor makes with any other student are absolutely none of your business. I don't see any indication that your grade is threatened. If you are learning what the course aims to teach, it is not your place to second-guess the way that your professor chooses to run her class.

Faculty are often asked to make accommodations for individual students for any number of reasons, and these reasons are not to be made public. In fact, I'm required by law both to offer alternative forms of evaluation where appropriate, and not to explain why I am offering the student an alternative form of evaluation.

For a US perspective, read up on the ADA and FERPA and you'll see an interesting intersection of required accommodations and required privacy on behalf of students with special needs.

[Comments converted to answer by request.]


"what can you do?"...the best answer is that you can...and should...educate yourself on exactly how this other's individual's position and arrangement has anything whatsoever to do with YOUR learning experience and grade in the course. Is the answer "absolutely nothing?"

There is exactly one way to get ahead in this world, and that's by embodying excellence, and doing good works. There are, however, a lot of people out there that think there's a second way, which is to diminish the work of others, push them to the side so that your mediocre accomplishments seem adequate in comparison. This doesn't actually work in practice, at least not for very long.

So the answer is to ask yourself why 1) you think you have all the information about why this particular arrangement has been made, and why an ostensibly smart and experienced professor would make "such a mistake," and 2) why it has anything to do with you?

  • 1
    A harsh answer, but I can't disagree with this. And I'd add that reflecting on this answer can be, imho, very beneficial for the OP. Oct 29, 2015 at 20:58
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    Having been is a somewhat similar situation myself, I must ask, doesn't this open up new ways of cutting corners for the "right students" without any form of recourse? From the question, the student the op is referring to does not seem to be disadvantaged (having a disability and/or poor economic status); he has taken quizzes for two weeks and then was assigned a task taking less effort by the professor without notifying the remainder of the students of the possibility to do so. While not impacting the op directly, this may have adverse effects on motivation.
    – Sebi
    Mar 24, 2016 at 13:32

There are two possibilities, either the student has some kind of favouritism, or he is being accommodated for health problems. You cannot know which one is it, nor it is your place; but if you suspect the first, you should bring this to the Chair's knowledge. He is the one that can ask your professor for the full story, and he can make a judgement and has the power to enforce it.

When talking to him, do not make accusations or hint that this may be illegal: just explain the facts as they happened from your point of view. The most you could do is to let him know that you are concerned this may not be fair.

As this arrangement does indeed sound suspicious, he may already have been informed by the lecturer of the situation; and if you start bashing someone because he has a health problem, will make you look bad.

Lastly, be prepared for the answer to be "we have looked into this, and we deemed it appropriate, and that is as much as I can tell you".


I must say that this seems like a somewhat conflicted situation. The professor doesn't consider the syllabus of the course weighted enough, so he emphasizes the project and charges a student with a administrative duty, but relieves them of the written exams and quizzes. You, on the other hand, consider the written part more or equally weighted (although you feel the project needs more weight), so you find it unjust that one student has been relieved of it in exchange for other obligations. Are you really sure the student misses a lot by completing only the project and not the written assignments? Further, are you really sure it is "easier" to lead and prepare group meetings than to learn the materials for exams and quizzes, although you would presumably need the same knowledge to complete the project?

I can understand that you might be agitated that the professor didn't mention such an opportunity in class. Perhaps the student was approached by the professor with some special reason (could be that the professor considers them to be good enough so they can skip the written assignments and/or someone to be a good group manager, or just someone the professor has a working relationship with).

Is this fair? I find this difficult to judge.

What can you do about it? Probably nothing effective. You could talk to some students' delagate or some other institutional body. You could also talk to the professor. In any case, you should be sure what exactly you find unfair (and be able to argument it) and suggest what exactly could be done to mitigate the situation (appoint you you to lead the groups, relieve you of the exams, enforce the exams back on the chosen student, etc.)

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    It is definitely easy to hold group meetings as he is only reporting on the group progresses nothing more. All the other students feel it is unfair and are not happy. he has only 8 months of industry experience while other students in class have 3 years or 2 years of experience and also they have higher gpa. Mar 25, 2015 at 16:34
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    Added additional Details. Mar 25, 2015 at 17:50
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    @user2733436 Being happy is not the purpose of graduate courses. Also, GPA is irrelevant, once admitted to graduate school. Which student the teacher chooses to cooperate with, depends on soft skills (e.g., not whining, better attitude, less arrogant) that are hard to quantify. However, this student actually did better on exams than you. Perhaps you should strive to catch up with him?
    – Alexandros
    Oct 29, 2015 at 16:54
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    +1 for Being happy is not the purpose of graduate courses. Another +1 for GPA is irrelevant, once admitted to graduate school.
    – JeffE
    Jul 10, 2016 at 19:51

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