Via VFR comes this story of a teacher who did not get tenure because he failed too many students at a remedial college.
Steven Aird enforced a written policy at Nofolk State University according to which students can be failed if they do not attend at least 80% of the class sessions for a course. The policy was set up because Norfolk, a traditionally black school, accepts many students from difficult backgrounds. Coming to class is therefore especially important for the students. This sounds reasonable enough, but when Aird took the policy literally and began giving D's and F's to about 90% of his students, the administration gave him the old heave-ho.
The dean, one Sandra DeLoatch, has allegedly made it clear to professors that there is a passing "goal" in each class of 70% of the students. Naturally, the university denies that they have a quota (oh my, no) for passing students, but the smoking gun is in DeLoatch's own notes on her rejection of Aird's tenure bid, which was supported by his department. There really can be no question that his failing "too many" students was the reason for his not getting tenure.
DeLoatch dismisses testimonials for Aird from students who tell what a great help he was to them. Why? Wait for it: Because these were good students! They got good grades in other classes, as well as in Aird's. Well, in that case, of course their testimony to Aird's helpfulness is worthless, because DeLoatch sees in her crystal ball that they would have done well with any mentor. So when Aird's students fail, partly because they refuse to come to class the required percentage of the time, it is his fault. When they do well, he gets no credit. If you, dear readers, have any connection with academe, the illogic of this will sound to you all too familiar, and worthy of administrators you have known and loved.
The racial undertones to all of this (Aird is white) hardly need to be stressed. I would guess that a black professor who did what Aird has done would also be denied tenure by the likes of DeLoatch. She is looking for the students to be moved along on the conveyor belt and spit out the other end with a degree, and the professors must bring about that outcome no matter what. But there is no doubt in my mind that the historically black nature of the college is part of what creates this feverish demand that students be passed at any cost. A college engaged in such a good work as educating minority students from disadvantaged backgrounds must succeed, even if such "success" is ersatz and represents no actual acquisition of knowledge.
One wonders why anyone should care about a degree thus obtained. The obvious answer is that the credential will help the students get jobs, even if it was dubiously granted. But that merely points to the fact that the credential may well not be worth the paper it's printed on, which one would think employers would eventually notice and care about. I doubt that there is any solution to this problem looming on the horizon, but obviously the only possible route to a solution is this: People should care about what things really are, not merely about what they appear to be. A novel thought, but one America could use.