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Rochelle Olson’s article includes an interesting quote from SCSU spokesman Adam Hammer. In response to a question about grades disappearing from students’ transcripts, Hammer offered this explanation:

A St. Cloud State University faculty member who raised concerns about discrepancies between awarded and recorded grades said Friday that he’s not convinced administrators took them seriously, despite a recent visit by federal investigators.

“Academic integrity is something you can’t mess around with,” said chemistry Prof. Jack McKenna.

But university spokesman Adam Hammer said that nothing “scandalous” occurred and that there was no “wrongdoing,” despite the weeklong visit from federal investigators in late June.

The problem was an administrative issue that has been addressed with stepped-up internal communication emphasizing that “faculty needs to be consulted” if students are granted late withdrawals from courses or are allowed to drop courses after grades have already been awarded, Hammer said.

Either Hammer isn’t familiar with SCSU’s procedures or he’s lying. There isn’t a procedure for making a student’s participation in a class disappear.

Late withdrawals

A student can apply for a late drop or withdrawal well into the semester. When a late drop or withdrawal is granted, a student’s transcript shows which class was dropped. It might include the date it was dropped, too. If the student is granted a late withdrawal, the student’s transcript will list the class and a W for the withdrawal.

If the withdrawal is granted after the semester, the administration has to make the change. That’s because the professor can’t change a grade once it’s input into SCSU’s official transcript database.

Questionable behavior

Chemistry Professor Tamara Leenay explained a different situation:

Faculty members’ concerns were first reported about a month ago, after Professor Tamara Leenay came across the transcript of a student who failed an organic chemistry class she taught a few years earlier. She said the course had completely disappeared from the transcript, even though she had a record of giving him an F. She said she was never notified of a change.

If a student withdraws from a class, a W is put onto that student’s transcript next to the class that he/she withdrew from. That isn’t what Prof. Leenay is talking about here. She’s talking about a student participating in her organic chemistry class, getting an F in organic chemistry, then asking the administration to delete the documentation that he’d participated in Prof. Leenay’s class.

In essence, he asked the administration to look the other way on the class. What’s most troubling is that the administration apparently agreed to grant this student’s request.

At this point, there’s no indication that the administration has documentation showing the student who failed organic chemistry deserved special treatment. In fact, there’s no mention of any documentation showing why the student shouldn’t have gotten an F for the class.

What we know is that the professor gave the student an F for a final grade. Further, we know that the professor didn’t note any special circumstances for this student. Implicit in this situation is that Prof. Leenay didn’t see any special circumstances that warranted special consideration. If she’d seen something out of the ordinary, it isn’t likely that she would’ve given the student an F.

The question that the University hasn’t answered is why they deleted proof of this student’s participation in Prof. Leenay’s organic chemistry class from his transcript. What was the special reason for granting this student special treatment? If SCSU can’t produce the documentation showing why they deleted this student’s grade from his transcript, they’ll have lots of explaining to do. They might not have to explain their actions to the FBI or the USDoE but they’ll be held accountable if the MnSCU Board of Trustees and/or the Minnesota legislature do their jobs.

The University’s explanation fits for routine cases. Their explanation doesn’t fit for students who failed a class, then asked for special treatment from the University’s administration.

UPDATE: Earlier tonight, I got an email from a professor at St. Cloud State regarding what I wrote in this post. Here’s the text of the email:

You write: If the withdrawal is granted after the semester, the administration has to make the change. That’s because the professor can’t change a grade once it’s input into SCSU’s official transcript database.

They now can do so online. There can be a change made with a slip signed by the professor. Indeed, that should be the only way it’s changed after semester end. The problem is that it’s not happening.

The form for late withdrawals is here. Online grade change can be done through an online system that requires a name and password. The name/password is a substitute for the slip we used to use.

I stand corrected.

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