"It's not spiders I dislike, just people." -Petra
Question #90713 posted on 12/05/2017 10:50 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Is there any institutional protection against a tyrannical professor teaching a class that is too difficult to pass? I'm typically an A-grade student, and I've never had to wonder about what happens if I fail a class and have to retake it or anything. This semester is different though, and despite my very best efforts I'm in a class really might not pass due to the obscene level of difficulty. Many others in the class are in the same boat, so I know I'm not alone. Does the university have any regulations to prevent a careless professor from wrecking dozens of students' transcripts?

-A concerned student


Dear you,

Welcome to college!

But seriously, I know it is hard, but I wonder if it is really too difficult to pass. Like mentioned below, go talk to the TAs and the professor and if that doesn't work, maybe you can go to the department. Good luck!

Also, I just want to throw in a plug for the viewpoint that learning and engaging in learning in college is much more important than your transcript. I also want good grades so I can get into a good law school, but it is important to not lose focus of what college is really here for.

-Sunday Night Banter


Dear you,

I'm pretty sure that the department would take an interest if the average grades in a class were consistently really low, especially compared to other classes/professors.

~Anne, Certainly


Dear you,

You didn't mention if you've done this already, but the first step is definitely to talk to the TA and/or professor about your concerns. It's hard to argue that your professor isn't being reasonable if you haven't tried to get advice from them on how to do better or asked them to grade more reasonably.

Unfortunately, it's pretty late in the semester, so if you haven't done this yet I'm not sure how much good it will do.

-The Entomophagist


Dear Aziraphale,

I just want to point out that grades really aren't the most important thing even in school, and they aren't necessarily the best indicator of academic achievement. You say that you're an A-grade student, but what does that even mean? It could mean that you're smart and good at school. It could mean that you simply haven't taken the really challenging courses yet, and have only ever gotten A's because you haven't pushed yourself with a particularly hard schedule. And what does it mean to be a B-grade or C-grade student? It could mean you aren't good at school, or it could also mean you've taken the extremely hard classes that really made you learn and grow. It could mean that you had a particularly hard professor. 

Something one of my professor's shared in class this week was this: grades aren't the most important thing to focus on. Lots of people who get the best jobs from [my major] barely scraped by with a C in some of their classes.

Something that can be hard to remember while we're struggling through college is that we don't go to school to get A's. We go to school to learn. I definitely agree that it shouldn't be a professor's objective to fail the students in their class. But perhaps it isn't a bad thing if they trade in some of the ease to obtain an A with structure that promotes deeper learning. Some of the classes that I've done the worst in were classes that I learned the absolute most from. I know it can seem like small comfort when you're looking at your suddenly dropped GPA, but maybe try and focus on how you grew because of this course as opposed to how it affected your grades.


posted on 12/08/2017 8:17 a.m.
Last fall I was in a 400-level class for my major. The professor had recently completed her master's degree, and it was her first time teaching as a full time professor. There were only five students in the course, and the other four students all said "this is the hardest course I have taken in the department" (ie, not counting math classes/prereqs taught by other departments).
It was a very hard course. Final grades came in, and only one student earned an A (remember there were only four students). If I remember right, three students earned Bs and the last student got a B- or C+...
Anyway, the head of the department saw those grades and got involved. He told the professor to change the grading scale to the point that one of the B students got an A.
However, don't let your hopes get too high, I think this was because the professor was so new and strict. If your professor has been teaching for more than a few semesters, this is unlikely to happen. And absolutely do not go contact the head of the department without telling your professor you intend to do so.
posted on 12/08/2017 5:52 p.m.
I was talking with a professor that was dealing with the accreditation board, and their largest concern with BYU is that grade inflation is prevalent. Arguing with administration that grades are too low in a class will be a steep uphill battle.