24 February 2013

Grade Lawsuit

The Huffington Post recently posted an article about a former graduate student of Lehigh University who sued over a course grade of a C-plus, claiming that the grade prevented her from becoming a licensed therapist. The student, Megan Thode, sought $1.3 million in damages (the amount of money that not being a therapist would cost her during her career) and for her grade to be changed to a B. The judge ruled against Thode in the case.
Thode’s C was the result of her being awarded zero out of 25 participation points in the class—a grade she said was given to her because she supports gay marriage. However, her teacher said the grade was because of Thode’s classroom behavior.

This raises a few questions: Was Thode’s lawsuit ridiculous? Did her teacher clearly define the participation required of her students? Should any grades be based on the subjective opinions of teachers? Should students be able to request the change of a grade through their school?

I’m not surprised the judge ruled against Thode in this case. I can’t know the amount of or type of participation that Thode actually engaged in without being in the class. I’m sure there are some teachers that do abuse their power and give unfair grades. Even if the teacher gave her a zero for completely unfair reasons, Thode’s request for $1.3 million and a grade change was asking a lot. If anything she could ask for a chance to retake the class.

Another thing to consider is that although Thode’s grade may have been unfair, almost every student at some point feels that they received a lower grade than they deserved. If she was given a grade change and all of that money the courts would be flooded with students’ lawsuits. People have different opinions and perspectives so life will not always seem fair.

As long as a teacher clearly defines what participation means, I don’t see a problem with that being a part of the grade. For some classes, like Thode’s therapy course, it could be very important. Other classes, like math, might be graded entirely objectively.

If Thode received all A’s and this one C, then maybe her teacher was unfair in grading. But if that were the case, I don’t know that this one C would keep her from becoming a therapist. Maybe it would. Thoughts? 
-Lynn Eccleston


  1. I have been in Thode's shoes before when it comes to a grade that I felt was unfair. However, going as far as suing a teacher has never crossed my mind. If she was that concerned about her grade, then she would know if she was going to receive a C before grades were posted. I believe there is more to the story though. College professors understand how important grades are for their students, and I highly doubt Thode was given a C out of spite. There is some left out evidence that is not being said. If a student deserves an A or B, trust me, they will receive it!

  2. I do not think that one grade can keep someone from a career. There are several times when I have felt that I was given an unfair grade. In fact, I was given a bad participation grade for being "absent" when I was actually only late and the teacher did not mark me present. Since being late was my own fault, he would not change it. I was very upset that I received an 89 rather than my deserved A, but I do not think it will prevent me from reaching my career goals. It is ridiculous to sue over a grade in a class.

  3. I agree with Kaitlin. I've been graded unfairly and received a much lower grade than I earned. I didn't sue to change it, or for money that I never lost. I have the option to retake the course and replace that grade. I've always felt that the only way to succeed is to take your future into your own hands and not blame others for our "failures." Yes, there are unfair people out there. Yes, we have the option to sue if those unfair people infringe upon our rights. But does that mean we should? Should I sue every angry customer who comes through my drive-thru and verbally assaults me? NO. This girl has already harmed the future of her career by suing over this unfair grade. Wherever she tries to start her career her employers will have to wonder "If she doesn't get a raise or a corner office, is she going to sue us?"

  4. Would I love to sue someone over a failed class? Yes, of course. But that doesn't mean its right. I would only be doing it out of anger. I think that people do a lot of things when they're angry that they wouldn't normally do otherwise. As a college student, if I acted out over every undeserved grade, being successful would be difficult. We have to learn from our mistakes and only acknowledge the things that aren't under our control.

  5. I think we are all in agreement that we have at one point in time wanted to sue a teacher for an unfair grade; however, that does not mean that Thode was justified in her decision. I agree with Sarah: this girl has harmed her future for suing a professor over a grade. We have been taught that hard work will be reflected by employers more than any grade will.
    I, personally, would want to check out this girl's transcript to see if this was the only low grade she has ever received. If it isn't, maybe she should have worked harder. If not, her actions will be strongly considered by her employers and could potentially jeopardize her ability to maintain a job. Just because you have the option to "take it a step further" does not mean you need to.
    In her case, I believe a tact, sensibility and a little bit of composure would have saved her from any humiliation or distress she will feel when she is unable to land a job later in life.

  6. I think EVERY student has had a grade given to them that they don't feel like they deserved. And if this world were perfect, we would all be able to sue for a million dollars and a changed grade, but...this is not a perfect world. I do feel like the student asked for too much. She should have discussed it with the chair and maybe some type of change could have happened. Maybe she could have gotten SOME points in place of a ZERO. But to sue and such? That was a bit much.

  7. While it is frustrating to receive a grade you do not think you deserve, you have to go back and think about what you could have done to fix it. Thode needs to reevaluate her participation and attitude in her class because she is most likely at fault. The fact that she is suing for over 1 million dollars is absurd because one average grade should not hold a person back. Now that she has publicized this ordeal, her integrity and attitude will hold her back from a potential job. Since she is suing over a bad grade, no employer will want to hire her because of her negative reputation and her integrity and character.

  8. It sounds to me that Thode's argument might be coming a few years too late. As other people have said, it is the student's job to know where their grade is before the course is completed, and is also the student's job to meet with their professor and discuss what they might have to do to get to their desired goal. I think that suing, especially years later, is silly. But as you and the others have stated, it's tough to truly understand the situation without being in the class. Thode's take on what happened is just as biased as the stance of the professor. I think if prejudice towards Thode's opinions is reflected in the grades, then there is definitely a question of the professional integrity of the professor. However, I still think that a lawsuit happening years later is the worst way that Thode could go about it.