Posted on August 23, 2004

Benedict Fires Professors Bucking Grade Policy

AP, Sun News (Fla.), Aug. 21

COLUMBIA—Benedict College has fired two professors who refused to go along with a policy that says freshmen are awarded 60 percent of their grades based on effort and the rest on their work’s academic quality.

Benedict President David Swinton says the Success Equals Effort policy gives struggling freshmen a chance to adapt to college academics.

He expects students to improve — the formula drops to 50-50 in the sophomore year and isn’t used in the junior or senior year.

But he says he’s “interested in where they are at when they graduate, not where they are when they get here.”

Students “have to get an A in effort to guarantee that if they fail the subject matter, they can get the minimum passing grade,” Swinton said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

Science professors Milwood Motley and Larry Williams defied that policy and Swinton dismissed them. Neither had tenure, which could have protected them from firing.

Motley, a veteran five years at Benedict, said he didn’t like concept from the beginning but went along with it grudgingly. Then he faced an academic dilemma of passing a student he thought had not learned course material. In his case, giving a C to a student with a high exam score of 40 percent was too much.

“There comes a time when you have to say this is wrong,” he said.

Motley said he started in the Spring awarding grades strictly on academic performance. But the historically black college “told us to go back and recalculate the grades, and I just refused to do it,” he said. A letter in June, informed Motley and Williams they were fired. Williams would not comment to The State newspaper for its story on the situation.

A faculty grievance committee voted 4-3 vote to reinstate Motley, but Swinton overruled that, dismissing Motley’s claim that his academic freedom had been violated.

“The record makes it abundantly clear that Dr. Motley has committed this infraction,” Swinton wrote in a July 13 letter to the committee’s chairwoman. “Moreover, the transcript of the hearing reveals that he admits to refusing to comply with college policy and states that he would not comply if reinstated.”

The professors “were not dismissed because they did not follow the policy,” he said. “They were dismissed for insubordination. They were openly defiant and in some cases hostile.”

Founded in 1870 to educate freed slaves, the college has been a haven for students who must overcome barriers to obtain higher education. The school’s open admissions policy means many students arrive with poor study habits and weak high school records, Swinton said.