Dear Chicago-Kent Faculty Members and Dean Krug,
In response to a global pandemic and recession that is worsening by the day, Chicago-Kent faculty voted in favor of a grading policy to relax the 1L grading curve and provide a Pass/Fail option for grades that are below B. In her announcement, Dean Krug explained that the decision by the law school faculty was intended to “support the most learning for the most students under extraordinary circumstances.” Importantly, Dean Krug emphasized that this proposed policy should “protect” and “increase” students’ competitiveness in the job market.
For the reasons set forth below, we respectfully disagree and ask that you reconsider the announced policy.
The proposed policy will legitimatize or even encourage academic misconducts that violate the unfair competition clause under the Code of Conduct (see Chicago-Kent Student Handbook Sec. XIX § 2-1 as of March 25, 2020). Under the new policy, a single parent student cannot mask a B grade after underperforming on the exam while caring the kids during the crisis; but another student with no family responsibilities from the same class can mask a C grade after putting in minimum work strategically. An arbitrary line of optional P/F creates incentives for abusing the system. We have no way to prevent or detect such misconducts and thus reject this perverse system.
We also reject the suggestion that the proposed policy will promote equality because it is discriminatory by effect. By no fault of their own other than embracing their socioeconomic background and family obligations, students are disproportionally affected by this unprecedented health, economic, and emotional crisis. Telling those vulnerable students to proceed with the exams as usual and discounting their struggles, the proposed policy will abandon those who need our compassion and support the most during this difficult time. As Dean Krug rightly pointed out that “grades are important,” any grading policy that institutionalizes inequality by protecting the grades and ranks of one group of fortunate students at the cost of other vulnerable students is against what our law school community values and stands for.
Lastly, despite good intentions, the proposed policy does not protect our students in the job market; in fact, it will hurt the school’s reputation both in the short term and the long term. Chicago-Kent faculty seems to have adopted the view that the crisis has put all the U.S. law schools in a prisoner’s dilemma—if most schools stop giving grades and we don’t, our students will get ahead. This is not an optimal solution or in game theory, a Nash equilibrium. In other words, without integrity and equality, nobody can get ahead.
We are heartened by the outpouring support from the legal community—the vast majority of law schools have either elected mandatory P/F or optional P/F without GPA constraints; firms and law departments are moving OCI events to a later time to accommodate all. Chicago-Kent’s proposed grading policy will undermine a united effort to lift up all the law school students and cause irreparable damage to its own brand.
The most important learning for the most students under extraordinary circumstances is to learn integrity, equality, and compassion in life. We failed to see any of them in your proposal.
Yilun Hu, Juan Luo, Zhangyuan Ji
Chicago-Kent China Law Society E-Board
March 26, 2020