University of Georgia Professor Institutes A “Stress Reduction Policy” Where Student Can Pick Their Own Grades

CWP_5381_cropped_portrait_largeIt 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.


73 thoughts on “University of Georgia Professor Institutes A “Stress Reduction Policy” Where Student Can Pick Their Own Grades”

    1. Jay S – when a student honestly considers how well they did in the course, honesty comes into play. This is why they may give themselves a grade lower than an A.

        1. JAY – they may be the smartest students who are used to getting A’s and now wonder if the work they did for this class deserves it?

    2. Why would they show up for class, do homework, or take tests?

      I mean, since we’re in the business or reducing stress and all.

      “I determined that it would be too stressful to get out of bed to take your final exam. Nevertheless, I think an A would be appropriate. Thanks in advance.”

      1. I did once get the time of a final exam wrong and show up an hour late. That gave me only an hour to do the entire exam. Luckily, I did know the material. 🙂 And I wrote very fast. 🙂

  1. I know there are people on the blog with better Latin than me. Could you please help me craft a new term? I’m thinking along the lines of Anglomasculiniodiumic?

    “Phobic” means fear of, when I’m looking for a term that encapsulates loathing of white males. The above is not quite right. Anyone want to jump in? Maybe Angloandroodiumic?

        1. The contemporary meaning of Liberal in the United States is not fully in alignment with that which was used within Victorian era United Kingdon.

  2. NOTHING about the Liberal approach to education prepares them to thrive in the real world. The emphasis has been on expecting the world around you to change to conform to your personal feelings? If you are upset, you are taught to concentrate on that offense, excite the limbic system to a perpetual state of stress, and demand that external stressors be removed. We are raising this generation to be intolerant of opposing ideas, beliefs, and politics, bigoted towards white males and capitalists, and to feel that if someone succeeded, they obviously took something away from you. Education from K-graudate school has become unabashedly politicized Liberal in many subjects. You can expect Liberalism to filter into your anthropology, biology, and English Lit classes. I don’t recall any politics creeping into my math classes, but with today’s trends, I wonder if that has changed. Personal politics don’t belong in any of the aforementioned classes, either, and yet they are now pervasive.

    Perhaps they will begin to teach that if the student next to you got an A, and you got an F, it’s not because they did the work you did not, but because they were privileged in being taught a work ethic, and so their success stole from you. You deserve> that A. How dare that other student work harder than you and study while you went to Fraternity Row?

    Dr Watson is irresponsible, and doing his students a grave disservice. One of my foremost complaints about the public education system is that too many schools graduate high school students who lack the basic skills that a high school diploma is supposed to represent. Likewise, students who complete Dr Watson’s course are just being passed along. It’s a disservice to those who actually earned a passing grade. If this behavior is reflective upon the university as a whole, then its degrees will not be competitive for anything other than political activism or civilian government work.

    1. You fail to understand the meaning of liberal.

      Why do you think various studies are called the liberal arts?

  3. The administration just put the kibosh on the plan. As a retired UGA professor, I approve of the decision.

  4. This is yet another effort to increase paying teachers union and professor association members.

    It’s long past time to automate and digitize all classrooms and lecture halls.

    One DVD per subject nationwide. Study assignments communicated and completed on home computers.

    Digital education sans “bricks and mortar.”

    Legalize strike replacement hiring and decertify all education unions and associations.

    Reinforce laws against the usurpation of the power of elected officials and the dollars of the taxpayers.

    Let freedom ring!

  5. Apparently, we are cultivating a generation of people who must be protected from harsh reality: don’t tell them their biological gender or they’ll kill themselves, don’t tell them they’re not a genius or they’ll kill themselves, don’t “bully” them with pronouns, comedy and divergent political views or they’ll kill themselves. Theyre like the guy in Blazing Saddles holding a gun to his own head. Maybe we should just call the bluff.

    1. That movie would never happen today. “Don’t move or the N Word gets it!” Won’t someone help that poor man? Loved Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little in that movie. And Madeline Kahn’s impression of Marleine Dietrich was hilarious. And Could History of the World be any more non PC?

      At least Sheriff Bart was manipulating the townsfolk deliberately. Today’s Snowflakes are just neurotic.

  6. This may not be as crazy as it sounds. His specialty is management information systems. His CV is 28 pages long. He’s written 10 books and published 180 articles. Hey may be an academic flake, but at least on paper he appears to be a serious person.

    If I understand it, the plan is that he will initially assign a grade. A student can request it be changed with no questions asked. Think about the consequences of that. What if a “D” student requests an “A” in management information systems? Assuming he gets hired in his field, then he gets hired by an employer expecting him to have an “A” level of competency. But when he starts work, the employer quickly realizes he is not “A” material. The employee will get poor performance reviews and possibly terminated if he is unable to improve his performance. So the student penalizes himself by misrepresenting his level of competency.

    The “pick your own grade” scheme strikes me as ideal for courses like African American Studies, Queer Studies, Feminist Studies, Transexual Midget Studies, and all the rest of the gender/ethnic crap. There is no skill associated with those courses. Their purpose is to indoctrinate students in Anglophobia, or hatred of white heterosexual men. What does an “A” even mean in those courses? That you hate white men more than the “D” student? Radical professors assigning grades to garbage courses like those doesn’t make much sense.

    But a grade in management information systems means something. It implies a certain level of skill and competency. If you misrepresent your competency, it could have negative consequences on your career. Explaining you got fired for being incompetent after giving yourself an “A” is going to be a hard sell.

    1. @Scott could you be any less ignorant? As someone who got degrees in both business finance and women’s studies, I find it obvious how unaware you are of how those humanities courses (you mentioned above) connect with major issues in our political and business worlds today (…not to mention perpetuating misogyny and stupidity).

      1. As someone who got degrees in both business finance and women’s studies,

        You wasted half your time, and you’d prefer to not admit it.

        Again, < 0.5% of all baccalaureate degrees awarded in the United States are in victimology courses. These aren't driven by student demand, and, in fact, they are spurious as academic disciplines.

  7. On a related subject, these videos are legion from a few years ago when BLM reared its putrid head on major campuses. a black female student running around the library screaming profanity aimed at non-blacks, a black female student screaming at a faculty member outdoors in front of other students, ordering him to shut up and listen to her stupid pie hole filled with racist epithets, the U of Missouri debacle where an ugly as hell red haired tool of BLM called for violence against an Asian journalism student for “trespassing” on BLM claimed public college real estate, etc, etc, etc, etc.

    Of all the explanations offered for the above behavior, this one fits best: race preference entrance for blacks and Latins. A “protected class” student has an F to C+ high school GPA. You gift huge numbers of such students by placing them with (calling them equal to) other non-protected class students averaging B+ to A+. Holy crap, what a shock! The protected class student fails, and after one semester, falls behind like a rock compared to his non-protected class fellow students! Who to blame: WHITEY, OF COURSE!

    The fact that students finish high school and get a diploma with absolutely no specific skills (even if it is a skill for manual labor type jobs) is fail, fail. Some students, a higher ratio of black and Latin, are not fit for professional white collar jobs. But that sure doesn’t stop Progressives from passing laws to force a round peg in a square hole.

    I presume the professor subject of this article smartly figured out how to get A+ ratings by his students, and get himself enshrined in some Progressive museum.

  8. The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next. Abraham Lincoln

    Is there some study that indicates the business community is clamoring for degree’d applicants with an inflated sense of self-worth, no experience, an inability to work under pressure and no actual understanding of business? Because as W. Edwards Deming once said, Expect what you inspect.

    It was recently reported that the California State University system is overhauling its remedial education plan. The current system of placing underprepared students in purely remedial or developmental classes that do not count toward their degree “is not a particularly good model for retention and degree completion,” he said.

    So, how long before the underprepared student coming into the university system becomes the underprepared graduate, with their only real accomplishment being $$$ in student loan debt that will never be paid off?

    Abraham Lincoln had it correct.

  9. I think the recommendation to walk out on your group project is more damaging than picking your own grade. This is especially counterproductive to succeeding in the workforce.

  10. Grades reflect the quality of the teacher as well as the diligence of the student. If a student is working hard and still doesn’t understand the material, something is wrong with the pedagogy.

    1. Or the student is a bad fit for the program. Not everyone has the chops for engineering or hard sciences. And, of course, we stew too many people through tertiary schooling while allowing secondary schools to rot.

      1. DSS – sometimes you get in the wrong course by accident. I was in a 400g (graduate level) class which some poor freshman girl got in by accident. She did not understand the numbering system for classes. By the time she figured it out, she was failing and it was too late to drop. 3 of us took pity on her and started tutoring her. We did get her a C out of the course.

  11. A lot has been written about this subject both pro and con. No system is perfect, but In my opinion, a lot more would be lost by self assessment than would be gained. The considered opinion of professionals is, for the most part, invaluable and attaching it formally to one’s record is a legitimate part of that value.

    That said, there are courses or situations within a college curriculum where self assessment might be of real pedagogical value. While the default of professor assigned grades seems to me most valuable as a system, it should not preclude self assessment where appropriate.

  12. Georgia was a penal colony. The legacy lives on. Went in dumb and come out dumb too. Hustlin round Atlanta in alligator shoes. And yet people in the media complain about Ferguson.

  13. When my mother was working on her doctorate in the 60s she had a professor who did this. And I have had a professor who made is grade ourselves. Actually, grading yourself for your final grade is hard if you are honest.

    I do not agree with any of the professor’s other classroom antics, however it is his classroom and he can run it the way he wants. When I was teaching, I tried to set up my classes so everyone had an equal chance at an A, but only the cream of the class would rise to the occasion.

    1. Hey Paul, everyone does have an equal chance at an A, work hard and study. If that doesn’t work study harder. These kids are leaving High School and their family stronger then when they leave college.

    2. Actually, grading yourself for your final grade is hard if you are honest.

      Yes! Cultivating situations in which students aim for honesty is exactly the sort of the circumstance in which self assessment can be hugely beneficial as a means of showing students that it is a critical process, a valuable skill really, in most of what we all do in life.

      But making a whole college curriculum on that basis would deprive students of the value of external input. Constructive criticism by others is one of the most valuable things one can find.

      Finally, simply conflating self assessment with greater chances of success (being hired) is missing the whole point of an education.

  14. I guess they can choose thier grades in their “safe zones”. Bring back the draft a real good DI will help them handle their stress. The standards for most colleges and universities have been lowered to accommodate kids who have little academic ability. “Eyes got’s a college edumacation, eyes gonna bees a doctor”.

    1. Bring back the draft a real good DI will help them handle their stress.

      I don’t think the career military wants to have to train conscripts. When we had a peacetime draft, first enlistments outnumbered conscripts by a considerable margin (though some of these enlisted in lieu of waiting to be drafted).

      1. This isn’t about what the career military wants, the topic is the “stressed” college student. I maintain that a good DI will certainly train young men and woman how to deal with their stress. They will also leave the military better prepared to decide on a career path and the education they require to gain success. If they can’t handle the stress of college they sure is hell won’t be able to handle real life stress.

        1. The purpose of the military is to fight wars, not replace fathers.

    2. The standards for most colleges and universities have been lowered to accommodate kids who have little academic ability.

      No, 4-year colleges recruit from the top half of the 17-year old cohort and few are so ambitious that they’re thinking about intensely competitive professional schools. The problem is that four years of your time and $50,000 in debt is a wasteful way to sort the labor market.

      1. Dems have not only neglected blue collar people in the workplace, they have dissed young people who don’t want to go to college. Dems make kids feel if they don’t go to a college[for more liberal indoctrination] they are a failure. Dems scoff at kids wanting to be mechanics, plumbers, etc. And, they are writing off the next generation of blue collar workers as well.

      2. For too many it’s not “thier” money it’s our taxes paying for their failure. Look college is not the answer for everyone maybe everyone in college gives some a false feeling of “equality” and “fair share” but it sure don’t help.

        1. I don’t think Pell grants are a big part of educational finance. There are subventions in the form of supports to the student loan trade. States subsidize higher education a good deal less than they used to.

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