It a fairly common joke among academics in discussing “campus life” policies that we should just let students pick their own grades. University of Georgia professor Dr. Richard Watson appears to have taken such suggestions seriously with his new “stress reduction policy.” Under that policy, students who “feel unduly stressed” can simply choose their own grades.
For his business courses, Watson has posted a concern of how “emotional reactions to stressful situations can have profound consequences for all involved.” After what must be exhaustive study, Watson concluded that students can feel “unduly stressed by a grade for any assessable material or the overall course.” In such a case, they are allowed to “email the instructor indicating what grade [they] think is appropriate, and it will be so changed.” There will be no demand for explanation. Better yet, all tests will be “open book and open notes” and students are assured that they will only be tested “to assess low level mastery of the course material.” As for in-class presentations, “only positive comments” in class will be allowed and “If in a group meeting, you feel stressed by your group’s dynamics, you should leave the meeting immediately and need offer no explanation to the group members.”
At first, I assumed that this was meant as a rather biting but poignant critique of new policies to impose more and more generous grading curves and to protect students from any possible source of stress. However, Watson has not indicated that this is meant as a joke. He did say that he is implementing changes but that no such policy is currently posted. However, the College Reform site posted details from the syllabus reportedly given to students.
If this policy is implemented, I can certainly understand how letting students choose their grades would reduce their stress but it hardly prepared them for life in the business world or any where else. Our effort to reduce every possible stress runs counter to our academic duty to ready our students for the pressures and conditions of life. One of the most important lessons is how to process and deal with stress. Otherwise you have knowledge but not the wherewithal to use it.