It isn’t that Dave Unze’s article for the SCTimes isn’t accurate. It’s that it doesn’t speak to the initial, central complaint. Here’s what I’m talking about:

The U.S. Department of Education has closed an investigation at St. Cloud State University without a finding of wrongdoing after looking into changes to students’ transcripts.

The Office of Inspector General determined that “there appears to be no federal violation” of student loan rules and the “case is recommended for closure,” according to information provided to the St. Cloud Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The department was investigating whether the university failed to return federal financial aid money it was required to return if the students whose grades were changed became ineligible to keep that financial aid.

It’s true that the US Department of Education visited SCSU’s campus. Likewise, they visited because they’d gotten complaints that some federal laws might’ve been broken. Still, it’s misleading to suggest that that’s the heart of the scandal. It’s what the Potter administration has worked hard to portray as the heart of the scandal but it isn’t close to being the heart of the scandal. This gets to the heart of the scandal:

Two years ago, a student in my class completed all requirements but the final, requesting to take the final in early January. She did not then nor in April, when another faculty member contacted me on her behalf for yet another chance. Her grade for the semester was a solid F — even if she would have earned 100 percent on the written final.

However, a year later, she requested a withdrawal for all her courses. I provided detailed evidence that she had completed the semester and reasons for denying the appeal. I later received an email that her request had been granted despite my recommendation. I contacted the registrar’s office to learn that two professors had denied her request and two had complied. Yet a W was awarded for all four classes. My prompt reaction re-instated the earned grade for my class.

That isn’t the only example of the Potter administration trying to pervert SCSU’s transcript system. MPR’s article documents what’s at the heart of the Potter-SCSU transcript scandal:

Last spring, Tamara Leenay, a chemistry professor at St. Cloud State University, was reviewing grades when she came across the transcript of a student who failed an organic chemistry class she taught a couple of years earlier.

“I noticed the course was not even on his transcript,” Leenay said. “There was no ‘F.’ There was no course number … It was completely gone. And I have [a] record that he was in my class and that I gave him a grade … and I was never notified of any of these changes.”

That’s the heart of the Potter-SCSU transcript scandal. It wasn’t that transcripts were getting changed without a professor’s permission. It’s that people who had taken courses, completed their assignments, then failed their class talked the Potter administration into eliminating a student’s participation in a class from their transcript.

I’m happy to hear that SCSU didn’t break federal laws while corrupting their official transcript system. Unfortunately, students’ grades were deleted from St. Cloud State’s transcripts after they’d done the work but failed the classes.

If a student does all the work for the class, then fails, that student shouldn’t have the right to petition the administration to have that grade removed. Deleting a student’s participation in a class from the transcripts is dishonest.

The investigation determined that a “large amount” of the transcript alterations were from “a backlog of late-withdraw requests, not no-show students, and that most of the transcript alterations affected students that attended classes for some time and were thus eligible to keep a portion or all of the Title IV aid they received.”

President Potter, former Provost Malhotra and spokesman Adam Hammer have tried portraying the situation as being about late drops and withdrawals. Nobody protested the fact that late drops and withdrawals were appropriate in certain situations. The faculty’s protests were about students who had their participation in class scrubbed from their official transcripts after the student failed the professor’s class.

President Potter still insists that that there never was a problem and that this was all about some professors venting. It’s unfortunate that President Potter didn’t take this seriously. It’s worse that the SCTimes didn’t do a real investigation. What’s worst is that the SCTimes just took President Potter’s word hook, line and sinker.

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