Op-Ed: Despite All Reason, the B-Median May Be Here To Stay

by Ted Stack, ‘14

Originally, this article was intended to highlight the evils of the B-Median system as currently employed at UConn Law School. Upon further research, it became clear that a majority of the faculty is already aware of the problems it creates and some attempt has been made to address it.

A notice that was sent from the Educational Policy Committee (EPC) to the faculty succinctly describes the situation: “[t]he current grading system creates two problems. First, classes exempt from the B-median are tempting to students regardless of subject matter as these classes nearly guarantee that the student will receive an A or A- Grade (approximately 80% of clinics, 70% of seminar students receive A & A- grades combined). Second, in B-median classes there is considerable variation in the curve because the B-median permits a great deal of instructor discretion.” Students should not be faced with the decision to take classes they are truly interested in or classes they know will boost their GPA.

There are Pro Se articles dating back to 2008 indicating that both students and faculty were aware of and working on a solution to the problem. Four years later, the EPC circulated a non-mandatory grade distribution that professors were encouraged to use for all courses. The faculty ratified the recommended distribution only for B-median classes, contrary to the suggestion of the EPC.

One might wonder why, after such an extended period of time, and subsequent to the expenditure of a significant amount of time and energy by faculty, administrators, and students such an anemic measure was taken.

After speaking with several faculty members about the B-median policy and the history of the attempt to change it, I have become convinced that the reason is simple institutional inertia. The faculty has a history of approving all changes to the academic policy such as this by consensus. The collegial atmosphere among professors at UConn Law, while admirable in many ways and an asset in most situations, makes them a group ill-suited to taking decisive action on an issue where there is a divergence of opinions. While most would agree something must be done, there are dozens of ways that the problem could be addressed and no agreement was come to as to what that change should be.

In a world where small variations in a student’s GPA can mean the difference between being given an interview and not even getting a foot in the door, I find it intolerable that students continue to be penalized at this school for taking core classes such as Evidence, Criminal Procedure, and Business Organizations instead of seminars and clinics guaranteed to boost their grades. If the political will is not there for the faculty to self-select a more rational grading requirement, perhaps it is time for the school’s administration to force one upon them.

One generation of students has already come and gone without seeing any reform to the policy. How much longer must the student population wait?

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