If there’s any message that President Potter wants to get spread far and wide, it’s that the US Department of Education just closed its investigation into the SCSU transcript scandal:

The department was investigating whether St. Cloud State 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.

Federal officials were on campus in the summer of 2013, asking questions of current and former employees. Officials were investigating allegations that school administrators had changed poor or failing grades to drops or withdrawals on the transcripts of mostly minority students, affecting their ability to remain enrolled as full-time students.

The original allegation was that many of the students whose grades were altered were receiving some form of federal assistance through grants or loans and that money was not returned to the Department of Education as it should have been.

According to the Meet and Confer minutes from the Oct. 18, 2012 meeting, the FA, aka the Faculty Association, didn’t mention anything about federal grants or loans. Here’s what they did mention:

So officially what we would like to do is have data for FY07 through 12 of each semester and summer session the number of late withdrawals that are signed off after and the number of late withdrawals that faculty were not involved in. I saw three in one day in my department where the faculty were not consulted last spring and so I know its happening. Perhaps an even more concerning issue of the faculty is the number of transcript, and I don’t know a way to describe it but I am going to use alterations where students are removed from being listed as having been enrolled.

Though it’s legitimate to worry if federal financial aid money was handled properly, it’s clear that that wasn’t the FA’s initial concern. The FA’s worry was that grades were being deleted from the students’ transcripts and that those deletions weren’t justified.

At least according to Meet and Confer minutes, it didn’t have anything to do with breaking federal laws.

What’s important is what the US Department of Education didn’t say. The US DoE didn’t say that transcripts weren’t deleted. The US DoE didn’t say that the grades that were deleted were justifiable. The US DoE didn’t investigate whether SCSU followed long-standing policy or whether SCSU improperly deleted records of a student’s participation in a class.

Tamara Leenay knows about that:

ST. CLOUD, Minn. — 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 SCSU transcript scandal in a nutshell. A student took a class, did all the work for it and still failed. Then the student’s participation in the class was deleted from SCSU’s official transcripts.

The thing that President Potter doesn’t want to talk about is whether a student who simply fails a class should be able to get that F permanently deleted as though it never happened. Certainly, there are justifications for late drops and withdrawals. There isn’t a justification for deleting a student’s failing a class.

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