Students in the information sciences class of University of Akron Professor Liping Liu were taken aback by an email that shared some information on how Liu intended to engage in open sexual discrimination in his final grades. Liu announced that he intended to increase the grades of female students to encourage their continuation in the male-dominated field of information sciences. Liu has been prevented from carrying out his flagrantly discriminatory plan but there is no indication that he will face discipline for such abuse of his academic position.
The business and management professor said that he was experimenting with a way to encourage women and understood that his plan was “questionable.” He told College Fix that his class of 20 to 30 students had only “one or two female students” and they are “not doing well.” He indicated that they would likely fail or have to retake the course without an adjustment.
The reference to the one or two females doing poorly might also not sit well with those students as a discussion of their academic performance. In Torts there is a concept of per quod defamation where the identity of an individual or individuals is easily established by extrinsic facts. This is more of a confidentiality than defamation concern. Since there are only one or two females, Liu just told all of the other students about their status and performance.
In his email to students, Liu divided the class into categories and said females would get grade raises as part of a “national movement to encourage female students to go [in]to information sciences.” Of course there is a world of difference between encouragement and discrimination.
Liu’s good motivations should not relieve him of the responsibility for seeking to discriminate against male students. If he had announced a policy to support men or whites in such grade manipulation, would he be allowed to continue without discipline at Akron?
Liu’s academic position is not license to manipulate grades to achieve social changes. Our students sacrifice greatly to come to college and graduate schools. These grades mean a great deal to them. Liu was suggesting that such work and academic performance would not be the sole criteria for his grades. His discriminatory proposal undermines the integrity of the entire university. Indeed, if he is not disciplined, some students may conclude that his primary mistake was making the preference for female students public. That leaves male students wondering if their performance is not the sole determinant of their grades for faculty with social or political agendas