Low academic standards and mismanagement go together


South Carolina’s Benedict College is home to the “Success Equals Effort” policy, a shameful enabler of student underachievement whereby 60% of freshmen grades are determined by “effort” — e.g. just showing up to class regularly — rather than performance. The percentage is adjusted down to 50% for sophomores. The only documents Benedict College has to explain this policy are this page and a couple of highly defensive letters from the administrators. It is a policy that Benedict clearly cannot defend in any positive sense. Just what sort of favor Benedict College thinks it is doing for its students by having this policy in effect, is anybody’s guess. Have the instigators of this policy never held a real job, in which one quickly finds that success does not “equal effort”? But I digress.

To be fair, the Success Equals Effort policy was adopted by Benedict’s administration, without any faculty input. Not surprisingly, many faculty at Benedict spoke out against the policy and some refused to follow it. Those professors were rewarded by being fired, an action which earned Benedict College a censure from the American Association of University Professors and lots of negative attention, which is as it should be.

Now we see from this article that Benedict is in trouble again, this time financially:

Federal audits of the college highlight more than $100 million in debt and other liabilities, as well as operating losses for three of the past four years for which audits are available. In 2005, officials at the institution had been up to three months late in making payments to pension plans, according to the audits.

Local news reports indicate that the college has spent large amounts of money on a new 10,000-seat football stadium, which is scheduled to open in August. Some alumni have complained in local news outlets about the institution taking on such a project, perhaps at the cost of paying employees. […]

Benedict College trustees say they plan to soon investigate the hows and whys behind the debt.

“Soon investigate”? You mean a college can go $100M in debt, and it comes as a surprise? News flash to those in charge at Benedict: $100M debts don’t just pop into existence overnight! And you should really think about building a football stadium when you’re that much in debt — as should some other schools.

Colleges and universities that care about academic standards — that is, which care about their students — usually care about the institution as a whole and will manage carefully the whole institution, academic and financial sides alike. Conversely, it’s no surprise that an institution that cares so little about its students that it would even entertain seriously — much less institute — a policy like “Success Equals Effort” (which I can barely stand typing, because it is a false statement) also shows a similar lack of conscience toward the financial well-being of the institution and the livelihoods of its faculty. As I mentioned on a comment at the IHE article, institutional mismanagement is like mushrooms — they occur in clumps, and where there’s mismanagement in one area you will quickly find it in others.

Benedict College needs to clean house and start over, with administrators and trustees who actually know something about academic standards and how to run a college. The livelihoods of their students depend on it.

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3 responses to “Low academic standards and mismanagement go together

  1. Wait. You mean the administration FORCED a grading system on all its faculty, and the university didn’t explode? I can’t even imagine a university with such powerless faculty. It sounds more like a secondary school, where the administration is at odds with the faculty, instead of a university, where the administration is pulled from the faculty.

    Amazing.

  2. That’s basically the gist of it — you can read the InsideHigherEd articles for yourself, and one of the links will lead you to the AAUP censure which has all the details.

    I’m not sure if this is a situation where the governance itself is o blame — i.e. the administrative structure locks out faculty to this extreme degree — or if the faculty were just too apathetic or uninformed to act properly, or some linear combination.

  3. Pingback: When students fail, who’s responsible? « Casting Out Nines