Midterm grade policy and academic freedom

Letter to the faculty
September 24, 2013

Dear colleagues:

While the administration encourages all faculty to submit first-work and midterm grades, faculty members who prefer to use other methods of communicating feedback to students are within their rights. In other words, board-appointed faculty are not required to submit first-work or midterm grades.

It is of course important for students to receive meaningful feedback in response to their work and about their progress in their courses. However, the process of calculating and submitting first-work and midterm grades can add considerably to the workloads of faculty who are already providing substantive feedback to their students in more direct, detailed, and individualized ways. At this point, the faculty has no way to know whether the extra work is justified because no data has been made available to demonstrate whether the submission of interim grades into a centralized system is an effective tool for improving student success rates or retention.

Additionally, how faculty evaluate student work is a matter of academic freedom, in accordance with Article 13 in the 2011-14 Agreement. The faculty’s right to academic freedom includes the right to make decisions about how and when to provide feedback. (Article 21.§1.1 is also helpful in elucidating this point.)

In sum, I write today to remind you that while the administration encourages you to submit first-work and midterm grades, you are not contractually obligated to do so. If it is your experience that first-work and midterm grades are helpful to the students in your classes, by all means please continue to submit them as you see fit.

Whatever your decision, the WMU-AAUP leadership respects – and will continue to defend – your right to academic freedom.

In solidarity,

Lisa Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University
814 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008