Fundraising or Grade Sales?

In the list of potentially troublesome ethical issues in academia, selling grades ranks pretty high. That’s why it’s usually done secretly. Not if you’re Bernard Gibson, professor of business, marketing, management, and diversity at Folsom Lake College.

According to an article by Laurel Rosenhall and Melody Gutierrez in the Sacramento Bee:

And at Folsom Lake College last week, a professor offered to increase students’ grades if they raised money for the college foundation. He rescinded the offer Monday after students and other faculty raised concerns.

A video of his lecture last Thursday shows Gibson presenting the deal to his marketing class: “If you raise $25 you can get enough extra credit to take you from a C- minus to a C. It can’t take you to a B but it could move you within the range of a grade. “If you raise $50 or more … you can receive enough extra credit to move you from a C-minus to a B-minus. It actually can move you into the next grade category.”

Oh, no, it’s not selling grades, protests Gibson; he’s just offering an incentive (“extra-credit related to a lesson on fundraising,” according to the article). While the details of this little transaction are unclear (does just writing a check count as fundraising, or do other people have to contribute in order for the grade improvement to happen?) something about this incentive seems a little odd.

If someone’s earning a C minus in a marketing class isn’t his time better spent studying harder than working on some college fundraiser?

Gibson has canceled the extra-credit plan.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer