Posted on the Hunter College Listserv Known As Hunter-L:

I Have Filed More Grade Appeals Than Any Other Hunter College Tenured Professor in Recent Memory

Because the Department of Film and Media Studies is that corrupt.

To the List:

I have filed more grade appeals in recent memory than any other instructor on campus, and I am miffed that I missed the last Senate meeting when grade appeal procedures were discussed, though I have had discussions about D:F/M grading/grade appeal procedures with a galaxy of Hunterites, including the Provost, former Ombuds Officers, Senate Chairs, PSC grievance officers, D:F/M Chairs and sundry others.

I have lost only one Senate Grade Appeal: The Senate upheld, without written comment (though the discussion with the committee members was indeed revealing at the time) this D:F/M grade appeal decision: My syllabus was too difficult for a student to understand, that she thought she was passing even though 80 percent of her grade was F and, despite my several meetings with her about her class performance as well as allowing several revisions of her work, and warnings that she had to stop disrupting and cutting class, she deserved a passing grade.

I could go one about this one but I won’t, other than to say that it was a lulu of a decision, penned by the then D:F/M Committee Chair, Colleague Bob Stanley. That syllabus, which I still use though it has been revised through the years to keep up with changes, had been vetted in those workshops of long ago for faculty concerned about their teaching. Regarding that semester involving the student who allegedly believed she was passing when she was actually flunking: Not a peep out of the more than 50 other students taking writing classes with me that semester, including others who failed. Three years (then) of a vetted syllabus.

[Revised D:F/M Logo in the Works.]

[Revised D:F/M Logo in the Works.]

Senate grade appeals (as I have been told more than once) become public records after a final decision. I learned to embrace public records as a journalist. When I served on the Faculty-Student Disciplinary Committee and the College Association a while back, I met a lot of serious Colleagues from other departments and learned a great deal about being a instructor, teacher, at Hunter. I do miss Mike Escott and his mentoring.

I am the only instructor in the Department of Film and Media Studies who regularly requires students* in my introductory news writing classes to learn how to file grade appeals – as well as learn how to file complaints against professors; understand/use the Ombuds Office; to know their student rights; to learn, at least on a rudimentary level, how power flows in this academic community; and what to do when they feel they are being jerked around by the bureaucracy, a department, a dean, a 17th-floor administrator, Colleagues, other students, et. al. I call it the Student Rights Project.

I was teaching at Rutgers years ago when students informed me of the RU Screw (appropriately defined in the Urban Dictionary – and I decided journalism students enrolled in my classes there needed to understand their student rights and how to deal with what they believed were injustices. We did that in the course of class discussions. But when I started teaching at Hunter, it was clear that such an exercise had to be a written, required assignment. Students who understand their rights (which can be a segue to discussions about their rights as residents and citizens), I believe, can develop a better appreciation of the rights of others who could be the sources or themes of news stories.

That’s one of my takes on the journalism watchdogging, journalism advocacy themes. Even if journalism is not in their future, at least they learned something about how to deal with perceived injustices. I bet Jim Aronson would appreciate that if he were alive and not turning over in his grave.

Over the years, as a tenured professor, I’ve been told by D:F/M Grade Appeals Committee members that “he” – that’s me – shouldn’t have the right to flunk students; that I should be investigated for flunking a student (a Colleague’s sweetheart); told by a Senate Chair that I couldn’t file a grade appeal with the Senate because it would reflect badly on the image of the College. Reason? Without consulting me, an F had been changed to a B for a student whose INC had been F because he refused to complete the course work after three years.

He stopped attending after the first two classes of the semester. He expected a passing grade even though he didn’t do, and wasn’t planning to do, any work because he believed (or was led to believe) that he was tight with two of my Colleagues who had kept inquiring of me about how “George” was doing in class during that period when George was a no-show.

I was told back then that the policy for D:F/M graduate students like George was an INC, not F. The INC subsequently became an F after three years. A paper trail of explanations about the F becoming a B reads like a treatment for an X-rated version of a Comedy Central broadcast because of the comments of all those who signed off to make the F a B and who denied that they were involved in changing the grade without my permission. To summarize, there a D:F/M scam was in play and the filing of the grade appeal would have, somehow, exposed the scam, thus tarnishing the image of the College because I was planning to name names in the appeal.

Hee Haw

Hee Haw

I also have records – I am big on written accounts – of adjuncts who paid the price for not giving students undeserving grades. Adjuncts in my department who give students grades that they don’t want put their jobs at risk. For example, a case study of a former adjunct, let’s call him Joelle, who taught in D:F/M for more than 10 years and was highly regarded, provides a riveting account of a decent instructor trying to do his job and getting ripped to pieces because of it. A student of his gets a C that she doesn’t want. In her appeal she accused the instructor of coming to class drunk. The D:F/M Grade Appeals Committed decides she deserves an A, Joelle appeals, the Senate upholds the department’s decision and Joelle’s contract is not renewed.

Legal fees, especially an initial payment, for what was described as a solid, winnable lawsuit on the grounds of defamation, according to lawyers we consulted, were too prohibitive at the time for Joelle.

There’s a lot more to this chicanery but I don’t want to overload this list-message. When I was on collegial speaking terms with the Provost a while back, I was told in the course of a 60-minute meeting that something would be done about D:F/M’s grading/grade appeal morass. Quotation Marks for Effect: “And I want you to meet with Dean Rose and the two of you will contact the CUNY Dispute Resolution Center ( ) to try to resolve the conflict with your department because the administration is concerned that the image of the department can be harmed and we have big plans for your department.” Ha!

I have refused to appear before D:F/M grade appeal committees that don’t follow Senate procedures – especially the requirement that a student should meet with the instructor before contacting the department chair for the appeal to proceed. I started doing that when Colleague Larry Shore started chairing the Grade Appeals Committee. I require students meeting with me to submit their complaints and allegations in writing to me before we meet and that they bring their graded assignments with them for the meeting.

A student not happy with the decision is told to contact the chair and I forward a written account of the meeting along with the syllabus, other course information and, sometimes, a copy of the graded assignments That was my policy in my most recent grade appeal episode involving the most flagrant cheating scam in my teaching career. The student was allowed to circumvent the instructor meeting. That’s one of the tip offs that a scam is in play.

I also wrote the Committee Chair that those Committee members who had been invading and, or, trying to disrupt my office and classroom spaces to disrupt proceedings, should recuse themselves because of a very realistic concern that they would be unable to be impartial.

My students are not allowed to use anonymous sources in their news stories. That refrain and sentiment are repeated in the course of the semester in various forms. In my most recent case – not on the level of a Stephen Glass or Jason Blair but serious, nonetheless – the student, who did not meet with me to start the grade appeal process, submitted a copy of the class syllabus to the D:F/M grade appeals committee but not copies of the course’s “Interviewing Rules” and “11 Commandments” that state clearly that anonymous sources cannot be used.

She told the committee that students in the class were never told that they couldn’t use anonymous sources. She wasn’t flunked for just using an anonymous source, she was flunked for repeatedly lying that her source wasn’t anonymous.

And, as it turned out, she also had cheated on several other assignments. I told that to an investigator in the Office of Student Conduct whose decision that I hadn’t provided sufficient information to support a cheating complaint against the student blew my mind. There were several wry comments by the investigator in the course of the meeting. Here is one: The investigator said that she knew the real name of the student’s secret source (because the student confided in her) and because she knew that the alleged anonymous source was a real person, there was no longer an issue of anonymity, no grounds to support a complaint against her.



Did the investigator contact this alleged real person for verification? Nope. Does the instructor know until this day if there is a real person? Nope. But the instructor knows that the student lied repeatedly to him that her anonymous source was a real person.

Regarding the appeal of my department decision to give that student a B, the student submitted grade assignments that bore passing grades. Not the final assignment with an F. And: I changed some grade assignments to Fs after a review of her work revealed she had been cheating.

The Senate Grade Appeals Committee wanted to see something in writing regarding my rules forbidding the use of anonymous sources since committee members weren’t accepting my word that I had repeated my refrain and sentiment and verification themes in the course of the semester. I showed the Senate Grade Appeals Chair my class documents in the Blackboard archives for my classes. The F was reinstated.

One of the members of that recent Senate Committee was a Colleague from another department and this Colleague a while back served on another Senate Grade Appeal Committee and was upset at that time that I had flunked one of her students (that student didn’t appeal the grade). The Colleague was irate, gyrating up and down in her chair, pointing, shouting comments, like, Quotation Marks for Effect: “Don’t believe him. He’s lying. He isn’t telling the truth.” And so on and so forth. Anyway, after meeting with me, that Committee met with Dean Escott who helped the Committee to understand its duties and responsibilities, and the Committee unanimously supported my appeal.

Wrapping up: In a meeting with the Hunter-L Powers That Be a while back, I was told I was courting censorship if I kept publishing my department’s dirty linen on Hunter-L. I don’t consider my comments about D:F/M’s grading/grade appeal morass to be dirty linen. It’s all about Academic sleaze. And the department allows Colleagues to exploit student angst and use students in these matters.

It is telling, I think, that one D:F/M Colleague in particular, Larry Shore, lobbied, successfully, for the changes for posting rules on Hunter-L. That change was directed at me, one of the H-L honchos said at the meeting where the comment about D:F/M “dirty linen” was made. The same Colleague, it seems, has been lobbying for a change in Senate procedures for grade appeals.


Gregg Morris

*Sometimes, I require the Student Rights Project as assignment in advanced classes. Sometimes, I require the assignment in lecture-discussion classes.




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