An unidentified UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine student was treated with a rude surprise after giving birth to her child after the start of the semester.
Her professor, Edward Feldman, allegedly asked the other students in his clinical endocrinology class to vote in a poll to determine the new mother’s grade in the class.
The options in the poll were: automatic A for the semester, automatic B, automatic C, best 6 out of 7 quiz scores, average of any quiz scores taken or a special final exam at the end of the quarter.
There is no doubt that Feldman acted improperly in polling his students on the matter. Even the individual options are questionable.
The first three options above would be unethical. Giving a student an unearned grade is inappropriate, regardless of the circumstances. The fourth option – which would involve grading the student based on quizzes she may have missed for legitimate medical reasons – is also unfair.
As department chair, Feldman should know better. It’s worrisome that a faculty member of his stature does not know the proper procedures for situations like this, and it raises questions about how seriously the vet school takes the rights of its students. However, even if he was unsure of the rules, Feldman should have consulted a source with more authority or experience – not the students in his class.
It’s worth pointing out that Feldman did not actually use the results of the poll to grade the student. As far as we know, there is no UC Davis policy that prevents a professor from seeking a class’ input on how to grade another student. Nonetheless, Feldman has been quiet since the news broke and it’s not out of the question that he would have accepted the students’ vote and used it in his grading.
UC Davis needs to ensure that all its faculty understand the established procedures. Faculty need to teach their classes in a way that is respectful of the rights and dignity of their students, even if there is no campuswide policy that says so. And the student caught in the middle of this debacle needs to be given a fair shot at succeeding in the course.