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Making the grade

by Andrew Maggio January 8, 2013
Making the grade

Photo by Leslie Schachter

Students enrolled in a John Molson School of Business course were caught in a crossfire between the professor and faculty administration over a miscommunication regarding a change in course content.

Part-time instructor Marc Picard addressed his students for a COMM 212 business communication course mid-December in an email claiming that the administration purposely refused to approve the final grades he submitted and that the exam administered was aimed to produce low marks.

“In my 41 years of university teaching, I had never seen such ridiculously low marks for an exam … What I learned when I contacted the person in charge was that this was no fluke or accident. It was a pre-planned, deliberate, calculated attempt to devise an exam that was meant to yield these results for reasons that are too ludicrous for words,” the email read.

At the time, student Heather Nicholson said she was disappointed with both the faculty and the school.

“Knowing how much I studied, and how much my classmates studied, we deserve better than to be given an exam that is designed for failure,” Nicholson told The Concordian.

The Advocacy Centre, according to co-ordinator Lisa White, was made aware of the situation and the email from Picard to his students but clarified that no students had approached the centre to complain.

The following day Christopher A. Ross, chair of JMSB’s marketing department, assured students that Picard’s allegations were being taken into consideration and apologized for any discomfort the “unconventional” email may have caused.

When Picard met with Ross and Associate Dean George Kanaan of JMSB on Dec. 18, it came to light that other sections of the class had received similar marks for the final exam. Picard wrote in an email to his students Dec. 20 that the university could not curve the marks of the section since the other 21 sections already had their marks finalized.

The final overall average for that section was a B despite the average of 59 per cent for the final exam.

In 2012, the business communication course was completely revamped including new content and course material. The course content was apparently more difficult than what was previously taught, something that Picard didn’t address when he contacted his students.

University spokesperson Chris Mota clarified that Picard had not taught the course since 2010 and when the debriefing session on the new course content took place, he was not included because he was not teaching it at the time.

“All the other professors understood the new course material and understood it would be different,” said Mota. “It’s unfortunate that [Picard] wasn’t part of that.”

Mota said that the faculty at JMSB would have to ensure that this didn’t happen again and that it was “clearly a failure of communication.”

Sean Thomson, a JMSB student who took the same course in 2011 before its reform told The Concordian that she personally had no difficulties with the class.

“The course is not difficult at all,” said Thomson. “I think most people in my class did fairly well and it was quite simple.”

With files from Matthew Guité.

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