Posted by: soniahs | January 13, 2011

Prof at UC vet school asks students to vote on classmate’s grade

Updated below.

This story is just really disturbing. A UC Davis prof has asked his students to vote on what a pregnant classmate’s grade should be. See the full story at Dr. Isis’ blog.

In summary, the prof (who is chair of his department!) sent out an e-mail to students asking them to vote on the way he should grade their classmate, who is likely to miss some quizzes due to childbirth. Apparently, the vet school is very strict about no make-up assignments. However, it is inconceivable that this situation has not arisen in the past. Has no student missed assignments because of childbirth or an accident before? Shouldn’t there be a policy for this?

Regardless of whether the prof was poorly-prepared for this eventuality or not, it seems completely unethical to allow students to vote on another’s grade.

More unethical is his singling out of this one individual for attention due to her medical state. In effect, this professor is shaming the student to the class. While he did not specifically name the student, it either is or will become obvious who she is by the end of the semester.

While my own teaching experience has certainly not been decades-long, like this professor’s, I would never single out one student for criticism by her peers in this way. I’m sure more details will emerge, but at the moment this seems completely unethical, and unacceptable.

Update: Apparently, this incident is now being investigated by the UC Davis administration.



  1. The professor might have had too many margaritas.
    a) Asking his students about how to grade his class? Regardless of whether it is an exceptional case or the norm, grading should be according to course contents and student performance, and students who have not finished the class yet are the least reliable opinion. What is he thinking?
    b) What is there to vote about? The student is “going to miss”, as opposed to “has already missed” some quizzes, correct? This means it is quite possible for the prof to plan ahead of time and schedule accordingly to ensure the pregnant student has all the relevant contents of the course covered. While pregnancy surely is not, childbirth is rarely a sudden, unpredictable occurrence. It gives people a whole lot of time for planning.

  2. From what I see, UC Davis has a “students are involved in setting standards for their own evaluation” thing going. So in that context, it makes sense that a prof might hold a discussion with them on what to do in this situation- it could be a “teachable moment” for the day they become instructors as well & have to deal with this sort of thing. However, that’s no excuse for the school not to have an official procedure for something like this, even if they do have a pretty liberal “students are involved” policy. And singling out a specific student is just bizarre.

    And yeah, she does have a few months to plan ahead- apparently this is this prof’s brilliant idea of “planning ahead:” adding emotional discomfort to a pregnant student’s other mental and physical challenges.


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