Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No Grades after 100 Days: April Fools?

My initial reaction after reading this article on Sua Sponte was that I was being had. But the story's apparently true, and really rather unfortunate. As the anonymous 1L at The George Washington University Law School explains:

As many people know, 1L Section 13 has yet to receive its grade in Criminal Law from the fall semester, taught by Dean Lawrence. This doesn’t affect just the section — it affects all 1Ls because with that grade outstanding, no one knows their class ranking/scholar designation.

Wow. Though I'm not sure what the date of this final was, I do know that GW's last 1L final was on 12/18. So, at best, it's been about 104 days. Having suffered through the wait for my own 1L fall grades, and the ensuing job search that depended so heavily on said grades, I can only imagine what these 1Ls are feeling. And I'm sure this isn't easy for Dean Lawrence either--he's a great professor who cares a great deal about his students, so I'd expect he feels badly about the delay.

While I've never waited quite this long to get my exam grade back (1.5 months is the longest so far), I've often wondered why professors routinely take as long as they do in the grading process. I respect that the process is time consuming if done correctly, cf. Other Methods, but does it really need to take more than three weeks? I imagine the answer varies by type of exam, but--either way--I think the turnaround would improve immeasurably if law schools imposed real, rigid deadlines on their faculty. And if my hunch is right, I have to wonder why this hasn't been done yet. Students, after all, have to successfully juggle multiple obligations--sometimes even mandatory pro bono work--with tight deadlines. Why do our professors get an exemption with respect to grading?


UPDATE (Apr. 2, 4:35 PM): Given the array of e-mails and interest this story has generated, we wanted to provide a brief update. We have not been able to get in touch with Dean Lawrence personally, but are now able to confirm that the Dean's Office and Registrar expect the grade to be released on Monday, April 6. I hope this news helps quell the anxiety of at least some of our anxious GW readers.


UPDATE (Apr. 2, 4:51 PM): We were able to get in touch with GW's Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Dean Gregory Maggs, and he shed some new light on the story. Although he did not confirm the April 6 date we heard from other contacts at the Dean's Office and Registrar's office, he did say that the grades would be coming in "soon." Moreover, he provided several explanations for the delay--the Dean has been out of the country several times this semester raising money for the school, and has been involved in various other (pressing) professional functions. Dean Maggs expressed sympathy to the students, and noted that the Dean was doing his best to facilitate as quick a turnaround as possible. This confirms our earlier hunch that there was, in fact, a good reason (in fact, several) for the delay.


  1. this is ridiculous

  2. People have to realize that Professors are busy...but at the same time, this is a little over the edge

  3. Dean's are especially busy. I'm surprised he even taught a class.

  4. Not to worry, this is the kind of thing the law school admin will handle very quickly..oh wait, the admin's the problem. bummer.

  5. And GW finals are in three weeks. Awwwwwwwwesome

  6. I'm surprised the students in this class haven't set the school on fire. And the sad part is that some of these folks are going to have waited 4 months to get a C or worse.

    I understand the need for wiggle room beyond the "deadline" that most schools give their professors, but this definitely crosses the line.

  7. Why is there a need for wiggle room? I have to agree with Craig that wiggle room is the problem because it creates a slippery slope for thigns like this to happen.

    Note to Section 13 1Ls- grades go up on banner at 7:00 PM every day so don't bother checking all day, just check shortly after 7:00.

  8. It does not make a difference either one is going to get a job ITE

  9. Craig,

    You are being unwarrantably kind and forgiving to Dean Lawrence. I am not a GW student, so I don't know him or his circumstances, but this is really outrageous. The economy is absolutely terrible, and the school's chief administrator isn't willing to do whatever is needed to help his own students succeed?

    In this economy, GW 1Ls were at a disadvantage to begin with. It's a great school, but people at Yale are not getting jobs and there's a trickle down effect. Putting these kids in this kind of position is horrifying. If I were a paying customer, I'd demand my money back. Law school's not about getting an experience, it's about getting a job and GW's DEAN is acting like he couldn't care less.

  10. Did Dean lawrence make a statement?

  11. @ 4:41--

    No, but I just posted another update reflecting a statement from the school's Senior Associate Dean.

  12. When I was a 1L, it took Dean Lawrence until about now to get our grades out. Frankly, I just remember it being excrutiatingly long. It didn't kill my job search (the economy will do that for you) and I still remember the Dean as my all time favorite professor. No need to freak out. One grade in the grand scheme of things won't make or break you. You should feel lucky that you got the Dean as a professor at all. (and by all those you's I mean you 1Ls).

  13. 2008 GW Law Grad here. I never understood why GW Law was always so late in submitting grades. I remember one professor had an all-multiple choice final. They didn't post the grades for almost two months after the finals. Compare that to other professors who had 50-60 students in a class, all essay or short-answer questions, and turned the exams in under a week.

    Grade reporting can have a huge impact on job searches, transfers, semester internships, etc. Hopefully GW will take a closer look at its grade reporting deadlines/enforcement now that they've received all this attention.

  14. These folks can't do anything about it, but I can express this sentiment: "What a lazy bastard!" This is likely 30 to 60 hours worth of work. Can't get it done in 3.5 months!? Can't give 3% of your waking hours to your students across three months? What a prick!

  15. Big C --

    While it is true that 3.5 months seems like a long time, I have heard from many professors that merely grading one three hour exam takes roughly 2 hours. I think, thus, particularly when you are dealing with a Dean who has a lot of other obligations, this can be problematic.

  16. EatRunLitigate above: one grade in this economy WILL make or break you, and the chief administrator at a law school that claws its way to top the way GW does ought to bloody well know it. I am appalled. To quote Anonymous above, if the "school's chief administrator isn't willing to do whatever is needed to help his own students succeed," then he needs to stop teaching classes and pay attention to his paperwork. Let me repeat: APPALLED. Dean Lawrence, I hope you are listening.

  17. If a Dean can't get a grade in, he shouldn't teach a class.

  18. Nima, that sounds like 120 hours cross three months. Even IF that were true, which it's NOT, these grades should be in by now. And, he can't them done now b/c he spent the four weeks over the holiday catching up on James Paterson novels and Clark-Griswalding his McMansion. Now he IS too busy. His behavior, barring his own death or serious brain injury, is unacceptable and PATHETIC.

  19. I agree with 6.05, but Dean Lawrence is a fantastic teacher, and from what I've heard, has been doing a great job at riasing money for the school...word on the street is that next year their average LSAT is going up (AGAIN)...

    Gdub to T14

  20. GW to T14??? Give me a break...6:29

  21. He could hire TAs. He could give multipe-choice exams. He could teach in the spring and grade over the summer when his other "pressing" workload is lower. He could teach a small section instead of a big one. He could co-teach with another prof. He could be a guest lecturer. Or he could decide not to teach, if he can't meet the obligations teaching involves. But if he's going to teach, he owes his students their grades. And the fact that other obligations have been prioritized in his schedule for months shows how he values his students in the grand scheme of things (or, rather, doesn't). He didn't even bother giving them a personal update--not one! He doesn't deserve a free pass here. Please don't give him one.

  22. I would be so mad if I waited this long and got an A, which raised my GPA up to Top 15%...but to no avail in the job search because it was too late

  23. Why does everyone care about this so much...the economy is much worse, and it won't even make a difference

  24. GW has been on a roll lately. Lawrence is a great dean, but he shouldn't be teaching classes if he can't get grades in on time. It's hard enough for 1Ls to get jobs if they know their GPAs.

  25. I am a GW Law 1L in another section and this is pretty embarrassing to the school. I hope ATL doesn't get ahold of this story.

  26. 6:38....they already have...

  27. Yeah I JUST saw that after I posted. In my opinion that person shouldn't have complained on Sua Sponte.

  28. So people should just pretend everything's okay for publicity's sake?

  29. Kendall Thomas pulled this shit a few years ago at CLS; except it was for a spring 1L class (con law). The journals had to make decisions WITHOUT that grade being factored - mind you, this was JULY when the final was on the first week of MAY. These people should not be teaching.

  30. 8:00-

    That's 2 months. This ordeal is currently running on nearly 4.

  31. Good job getting picked up by ATL, guys. That's really impressive.

  32. A lot has been said, and I thus have to diverge from the usual practice of addressing everyone's individual comments.
    As I think my posting reflects, I view this situation as an unfortunate--but in this case, necessary (even justified)--set of circumstances.

    Thus, I think it's unfair to use derogatory language or be unduly critical towards Dean Lawrence. Those who know him know that he truly cares about his students, and school; he’s truly top notch. I don't think any of us can fathom the extent to which his administrative obligations impede his ability to tend to things like law school exams which--as Nima noted--are (almost certainly) very time consuming. Granted, I’ve never graded law school exams, but I can’t imagine they’re easy to get through—I would love to hear some faculty members chime in on this point, and welcome any reading our blog to share their grading experiences with us.

    That said, there are solutions to this problem, and a lot of them have been advanced in the comments to this message: (1) stop teaching classes, (2) change exam format, (3) hire TA's, etc. These are fair critiques that I'm sure the Dean will consider them going forward. But, given the unpredictable nature of his obligations, this situation was likely not something he anticipated. I don't want to speak for him, but I'm almost certain he would have utilized one of these alternative options if he realized how difficult it would be for him to put the requisite time in to grading the fall examinations.

    All this goes a long way to say that we should all be forgiving. This is a lesson for everyone and, ideally, we'll all learn from it and react in a positive way. I’ll leave it to you all to prescribe thoughtful solutions for the future.

    And thanks for the Above the Law props, 8:08. We're very pleased to have our name associated with theirs.

  33. GW 1L - Section 13April 2, 2009 at 9:41 PM

    As one of the students that is still waiting for his grade, I can tell you that it is horribly frustrating. I decided to wait for my grades before sending out applications, and the career office had no suggestions for handling the situation until weeks after grades were expected.

    As for grades on Monday, we've heard many broken promises, so I'll believe it when I see it.

  34. @ 9:41--

    I've been in your shoes, and I understand how you feel. I hope your grade comes, and wish you all the best.

  35. Honestly, Craig. What a bunch of nonsense.

    Responsibilities unfulfilled, well-intentioned though one may be, remain responsibilities unfulfilled. It IS that simple.

    "But, given the unpredictable nature of his obligations, this situation was likely not something he anticipated. "

    Really? I understand this is not the first time he's been rather late in getting grades in, so it's--uh--entirely anticipated.

    "All this goes a long way to say that we should all be forgiving. This is a lesson for everyone and, ideally, we'll all learn from it and react in a positive way."

    Forgiving. Hmm. And there's only one real lesson to be learned here. Prioritize, handle your business, and respect other folks' time, or you'll be held accountable. The problem is, there's no one to hold the top man accountable. So, he can keep the sand in his Vaseline, and the 1Ls must simply smile and nod.

    That's wrong. Only the POTUS is as busy as this man CLAIMS to be. This is a lack of time management -- plain and simple. He deserves all the rotten tomatoes that are thrown his way.

  36. @ Big C--

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I hate grade delays as much as the next guy, and I can appreciate everything you're saying. I'll be candid: I'm giving Dean Lawrence the benefit of the doubt because, as I understand it, he's a very nice, caring professor who would never shirk responsibilities unless other, more pressing responsibilities necessitated doing so. Further, when I contacted Dean Maggs to follow up on the story, he was very forthcoming, and expressed sincere remorse for the 1Ls on the school's behalf. Collectively, these things--to me--militate in favor of being forgiving and understanding. But I accept and realize that reasonable minds can differ; it's clear, in fact, that they do.

    Regardless of whether one wants to adopt my view or those of the many other commenters in this discussion (who take the opposite position), I think we can all agree that there's a need for a change here. And that's why I posted this story in the first place: the need to "solve" the grade-delay problem. Long grade delays extend beyond Dean Lawrence, and beyond GW. This happens everywhere, and this story is just one (rather extreme) example of the general rule.

    I've already posted a potential solution in another posting: fining professors for delays. As I note in that post, I think it's too extreme a measure...but I do think something needs to be done to try to get grades in sooner. At all law schools, and for all law professors; they almost uniformly take way too long and, as I suggested initially, my inclination is to think that part of the problem stems from the fact that no one is willing to impose a tight deadline on their faculty (except, I guess, Florida State). So what do we do about it? Where do we go from here?

  37. Exactly. There is NO solution b/c there's is NO accountability. That's why frustration is an appropriate response. Even where folks are outed, the shaming does nothing to change behavior.

  38. I wonder how this news will effect the ASW at GW tomorrow. Do pre-law kids read the legal blogs? If so, should be interesting.

  39. "I'm giving Dean Lawrence the benefit of the doubt because, as I understand it, he's a very nice, caring professor who would never shirk responsibilities unless other, more pressing responsibilities necessitated doing so."

    That pretty much sums up law school right there, the best interests of the students are at, or at least near, the bottom of the priority list.

  40. 11.39-What about getting top students to keep coming to the school to help the posterity of GW 1Ls who will eventually get their grade anyawy?

  41. I don't normally care what people say about my comments, but I have to say if you waited for your grades to apply for jobs, in this economy, that was not too smart. Additionally, if you think not having this one grade is going to stop you from getting that elusive job in this economy you are crazy because there are no jobs in this economy. Look at the NALP numbers for firms that hired 1Ls -- almost all hired none. Yeah it sucks your grade is late, but I cannot fathom how anyone thinks that having the privilege of Dean Lawrence teaching one of your classes is outweighed by waiting for the grades. You should have had resumes out on December 1st if you wanted a job that bad. The economy has been tanking for quite some time.

    --2008 GW Grad, who is pretty sure she got her 1L job before she got Dean Lawrence's crim law grade

  42. As a GW grad who had Dean Maggs as a prof I respect him a lot. He's one of the best teachers in the country. But his excuses for the Dean are just unacceptable.

    Let me try to put it in terms Dean Lawrence can appreciate: Ten years after graduating, I'm still irritated about the way GW's administration treated students. Their slow grading policy was one of the top irritants, although not the only one. My experience was such that when they call me up to ask for money, my only response is to laugh (in contrast, I give generously to my undergrad school). Dean Lawrence may want to consider they 75 future donors he's flushing away.

  43. Dean Lawrence has a valid reason for the delay...I speculate that there must be some controversy that he was made aware of while he was grading and is holding off until whatever the problem is has been dealt with. Why else would a prof hold up the grades? Yeah he's busy, but I'm sure it was no problem for him to get everything graded...I think there must be an issue that is keeping him from releasing those a former research assistant and having worked closely with profes, profs delay releasing grades based on security breaches (students tapping into exam questions prior to the exam), cheating, plagiarism, or something wrong with the exam questions themselves...who knows. But I think something is up. Time will reveal all.

  44. @ 10:28--

    I asked Dean Maggs if there was any such issue, and he explained that there was not.

  45. Just wanted to say I don't agree with the poster who said "people at Yale aren't getting jobs."

    People at Yale might not be getting all their top choice jobs, but it's not like people don't have lots of options. I am a Yale 3L with a lot of 1L and 2L friends and I don't think people are struggling like that.

    I'm not saying this to brag about Yale and be an ass about the economy, but I'm saying it because I think that there is a lot of collective panic that goes around law schools (about everything from whether or not you'll be cold called to law review to class rank) and I think that "the sky is falling" type comments like "people at Yale aren't getting jobs" just kind of makes everyone who isn't at Yale but who reads the post feel even more frantic about things.

  46. I agree w/ 12.18. Things aren't as bad as they seem..I remember reading an article here that said the same thing. NY Biglaw to 190k or something?

  47. One of my favorite professors at BU was the now GW Dean Lawrence. I admire him for continuing to teach while being Dean at GW. Actually, it would be a shame if he didn't teach, because he is so great in that role. It never took him that long to get grades out at BU when he wasn't the Dean. But I would be mad if I had to wait that long for grades.

  48. GW is only sorry they got caught, and about this atrocity being aired in a public forum as well as the subsequent impact on their image. Don’t be fooled; the defenders of GW on this matter are trying to deflect the damage. Albeit this is an extreme example, late grades are all too common for law schools. The sad part is most administrators and professors don't seem to think this is a problem, but students do. Professors have high salaries, and rightfully so, but students pay a lot too. I just don’t think students are getting what they pay for these days in terms of teaching quality. (Please don’t respond regarding job prospects or ABA monopolization of the legal profession. It is related, but has been discussed to death).

    Law schools need to transform the way they teach and give feedback. Business schools have been forced to transform to offer value to professionals with industry experience, but law schools haven’t seen the light. And just to be clear, a JD/MBA program does not address the antiquated teaching processes of law school. Would any current law students already in possession of an MBA care to respond?

    Anonymous, MBA, JD

  49. The faculty culture at most First Tier law schools has moved steadily in the direction of emphasizing scholarship over teaching. Most faculty members will thus defer grading if they have a manuscript deadline or conference presentation looming, and they almost always do.

    That explains a good portion of grading delays. It is not only an intrinsically unpleasant task, but it does not correlate with anything that is valued in a faculty member's profesional life. Coercive tactics might help a bit -- per diem fines for instance -- but in the grand scheme profs will prioritize their time consistent with what they are told is most important. In a scholarship uber alles world, late grades are inevitable.

    A partial remedy would thus be for faculties to consider grading punctuality at tenure time. This would encourage junior faculty to put students ahead of articles and would perhaps have some kind of effect on the overall institutional culture. It would also help if someone in authority told the faculty each semester that getting grade in is more important than getting article out the door, but a Dean who is 4 months past due on grades is not the most persuasive candidate on that point.

    But if any one school tried to change its culture in this direction, it would be a form of unilateral disarmament. The school's scholarly reputation could decline and its USNWR ranking could go down with it. That would like piss off students even more. Its a case of choose your poison.

  50. This comment has been removed by the author.

  51. @ 10:23 & 12:03--

    Thank you both for your insightful, thoughtful comments; we're glad to have you aboard to share your thoughts.

    One of the foremost goal of this blog is to change this profession for the better (see our "Site Mission") and we've addressed a lot of the issues you both highlight in previous posts.

    Specifically, I'd call your attention to the following posts which are directly on point:

    Time for a change?: Here, we discuss the (in our opinion, undue) emphasis on "publish or perish" and how a change in priorities might be in order.

    On a "Medical-Based" Approach to Legal Education: Here, we discuss how teaching reform may be appropriate, and more pragmatic pedagogical methods could address some of the industries' concerns. We recently ran an update on this story here: A practical approach to law school? Arthur Miller thinks so....

    We've also posted other suggestions for law school reform; for example, we reported on the University of Illinois' assistant dean of admissions addressing prospective student questions directly on an internet forum: The Wave of the Future? We hope...

    I could go on posting links for hours, because there's really a lot of good discussion along these lines...indeed, this type of discourse is exactly what we're trying to facilitate. And, ideally, we'll continue to have law professors, practitioners and students alike contribute regularly.

    Please do not hesitate to contact us with any ideas you think we should address. One of our objectives is to respond directly to our readers, and provide them with the content they want to see. In particular, 10:23, we'd like to hear more about the MBA approach so we could address a story on this in the future.

  52. Would the school wait 100 days for a tuition payment? Uh No.

  53. As a 1L at GW, this is yet another example of the law school not communicating with its students. Lets put this into context:

    1) ALL other 1L professors (including other deans) had their grades out months ago. Dean Lawrence wasn't the only professor to pass out grades past the school's "deadline," but every other late professor had their grades out 3 weeks later. He is not the only Dean who also teaches 1L classes, but he is the only one who has taken more than 2 months LONGER than everyone else to grade exams.

    2) GW's exams were earlier than almost all other top tier schools - the last exam was on December 18. Yet, almost all other top tier schools received their grades before GW students did.

    3) Like last semester, GW's exams are earlier. Our last day of the semester is next Tuesday, and there is still a grade missing.

    4) Dean Lawrence has been teaching this class for years, and this is not the first time he's had the grades come out late. From what I understand from upperclassmen who had him the past couple years, his exam grades were always the last to come out. While this is longer than he usually takes, his grades have always come out after most application deadlines. So, this is not the first time this has happened but he still makes no effort to try to alleviate the problem.

    I am not in Section 13, but my torts professor also had a delay in releasing our grades. Professor Turley's method of "reading exams 3 times" at least makes me feel better that he gave us a pre-emptive excuse as to why his grades would take slightly longer, and his grads only took 3 additional weeks. Dean Lawrence, however, has refused to answer to over 100 students as to ANY reason why his grades are taking so long.

    I feel for the students who are frustrated with the fact that such a great professor in class could show such disregard for his students for not even bothering to explain why this has taken so long. For those complaining that this should have never been on a public forum - there has been almost a 2 month gap between now and when the last 1L grade was released. I have several friends in Section 13, and all of them absolutely loved him as a professor. Thus, there seems to be a reason that this has taken so long to get out: everyone was really trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. But at this point, not airing the problem seems to only condone his behavior.

    However, as spring exams begin creeping up on us, ALL 1L's want an answer as to why class ranks will be coming too little too late for summer jobs and internships. While yes, it's true that you should have applied early, many organizations don't do interviews until mid-Feb into March (when almost all other law schools had already received grades). What good are 1L rankings if they can't be used for summer employment? I understand it may take him longer to grade exams, but he should explain that to his students and give firm deadlines as to when they will be distributed. As of yet, he has still not given any excuse beyond "Dean duties" as to why it is taking so long, and that is completely unacceptable. If other deans and professors can do it, so can he.

  54. I am a 1L who was in Dean Lawrence's class. It was a wonderful class and I am really glad that he taught last term. He's a great professor and I hope he keeps teaching.

    My primary problem is not that he has delayed returning the grades. I am insulted that he never wrote us a letter or otherwise sent a message to us explaining or apologizing. It makes him seem either pompous or disconcerted with the students. He should have shown us more respect.

    On the other hand, this hasn't really effected me negatively. I got my first-choice summer job and I know I'll get the grade eventually. Heck, if this grade is worse than my others, then keeping it off my transcript for this long helped me!

    I think the issues is not jobs, it's respect. GW in general, and the administration in particular, should try harder to show they care about the students.

  55. You guys are supposed to get your grades today...did you?

  56. 6:49, the grades came yesterday.

  57. Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide
    credit and sources back to your webpage? My website is in the exact same area
    of interest as yours and my users would really benefit from some of the information you provide here.
    Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks!
    Here is my homepage ; usc football newsenglish football news and transfers

  58. Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins to
    protect against hackers? I'm kinda paranoid about losing everything I've worked hard on.
    Any recommendations?
    Feel free to surf my web site - neymar transfer news january 2013

  59. Yes! Finally something about alabama football news.
    Also visit my website ; man u january 2013 transfer news

  60. Your means of describing the whole thing in this piece of writing is truly nice,
    every one be capable of easily understand it,
    Thanks a lot.

    Also visit my homepage - jersey shops

  61. What's Going down i'm new to this, I stumbled upon this
    I have found It positively useful and it has helped me out loads.
    I am hoping to contribute & aid other customers like its aided me.
    Good job.

    my blog steel bracelets
    Also see my website :: name rings

  62. Nice poѕt. I wаs checking constantlу thiѕ blog аnԁ I am impressed!
    Vеry useful information specifically the laѕt pаrt :
    ) I care fоr such infо а lоt.
    I was looking foг thіs partiсular іnfo for а
    lоng time. Thank you anԁ best of luck.

    my webpage - raspberry ketone

  63. Heya аre using Wordpress fοr your site platform?
    I'm new to the blog world but I'm trying to get started аnd cгeate my
    oωn. Do you гequіre any html cοding knоwleԁge
    to maκe your οwn blog? Any help would bе really appreciateԁ!

    My websіte -

  64. Hey There. І founԁ уour blog usіng
    msn. Тhis is a reallу well written article.

    Ι'll be sure to bookmark it and return to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I'll сertainly гeturn.

    Мy web-ѕite vistaprint coupon


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.