In the saga of the Colorado student who claims that she was failed on a criminology exam for not following the professor’s instructions to explain why George Bush is a war criminal (but wrote that Saddam Hussein was instead) there is no hard evidence because the professor claims to have destroyed all copies of the actual exam, while also claiming that the student’s bad grade (he won’t reveal what it is and probably can’t because there is a federal law against such public disclosure) was given because she handed in only two pages instead of the required three. Our question to him is, how can he know this if he destroyed the exams?
At legislative hearings on the Academic Bill of Rights, the President of the University of Northern Colorado, Kay Norton said the following according to the audio transcript, (we will post the audio as soon as we are able; our web technician is on vacation): "...and actually last year, a young woman did raise a question about what she thought was an inappropriate examination question, I referred her to our procedures, she followed them, and I'm pleased to report to you that the original version of what would have been an inappropriate examination question proved not to be what was actually on the examination, and so the process worked."
Please note how deceptive this testimony is. President Norton did not have access to the examination question since all the exam papers were destroyed. What she had access to in making this statement was a question supplied by the professor after the student had filed a formal complaint about her grade. She is simply taking the professor at his word. She also does not indicate whether the grade on the exam was altered through the appeals process or not.
After a series of one-sided newspaper reports in the Colorado press in which only the UNC administration and the professor were interviewed, the student emailed us the following comments reiterating her claim (and ours based on her claim) that the original exam question was different from the question that the professor supplied after that fact. As we have pointed out the chief difference between the question supplied after the fact and reported by the university spokesperson was that students were required to explain why the United States was a war criminal rather than George Bush (see Addenda 1 below):
“I did fail the final exam, at least that is what I was told, however based on Dunkley's and the schools comments you never really know what is truthful. It has always been my understanding and my story that I got an “F” on the exam but a B in the class. I don’t think Dunkley disputed that but he is such a manipulative person you never really know.
“I still feel at peace with my decision, I think Erin [our original student interviewer] is upset with me as she keeps calling and emailing me to share [more of my] perspective, but I need some time away from this. It has put unnecessary stress on me and put a damper on my Spring Break. I hope you understand my decision and in talking to you it doesn’t seem like you are upset with me, but I need to do what is best for me in this situation.
(student's name redacted)”
These are the accompanying comments of my staffer, Ryan Call, who is based in Denver:
“The student confirmed, as she told us originally, that she received an “F” for the final exam, but that her grade for the course overall ended up being a “B.” The student gave me the impression that her grade for the course had been moved up to a “B” as a result of the appeals process. The explanation the student gave was that since Professor Dunkley was never able to produce a copy of the student's actual essay/response for either her or for the committee or administrators who looked into the appeal—the student claims that Dunkley told her that he had thrown away all the exams after he had graded them -- and the student has neither seen nor ever been given a copy of her actual exam response at ANY stage during the appeals process, that the professor agreed to disregard or drop the “F” on the final exam, and instead use some sort of combination from the student's mid-term exams and other class projects. Thus the “B” as the final grade in the course.
“Frankly, this seems to lend credence to the student's story. Why in the world would a student go through a lengthy and onerous appeals process to protest a "B" final grade, raise the issue with the university president directly, and come to us with her story unless there was some substance to her concerns, and she really felt like the exam question was politically biased and unfair? And why in the world would a professor who maintains he was completely justified in giving a student an “F” on the final exam, later change the student’s final grade in the course all the way up to a “B” unless the failing grade on the final was not really justifiable? Getting an “F” on the final exam, but a “B” in the course overall doesn't pass the smell test--grade inflation alone doesn't explain it.
“The student continues to maintain that the exam question that Dunkley submitted to the review committee--the exam question that President Norton referenced in the audio, and the exam question that appeared in the InsideHigherEd.com article--was NOT the same as the question that appeared on the exam. The student continues to believe that Dunkley recreated the exam question at some point during the appeals process because the original exam had been thrown away.”
So we are left with the question of whom to believe, the student who went through an appeals process and came out with the “B” or the professor and the university who on the face of their own testimony and behavior have shown themselves to be secretive, manipulative and deceitful?
Recall that this was an exam in criminology, and not geopolitics. Even the question supplied by the professor required the student to come up with a pre-determined answer to a very controversial issue. This is indoctrination and a violation of the tenets of academic freedom. Our original story stands.
1) This is the exam question supplied after the fact by the administration (and after the originals were destroyed by the professor):
“The American government campaign to attack Iraq was in part based on the assumptions that the Iraqi government has ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction.’ This was never proven prior to the U.S. police action/war and even President Bush, after the capture of Baghdad, stated: ‘we may never find such weapons.’ Cohen’s research on deviance discussed this process of how the media and various moral entrepreneurs and government enforcers can conspire to create a panic. How does Cohen define this process? Explain it in depth. Where does the social meaning of deviance come from? Argue that the attack on Iraq was deviance based on negotiable statuses. Make the argument that the military action of the U.S. attacking Iraq was criminal.”
In defending himself after the fact (and after this became an issue) Dunkley has implied the question was an exercise in playing devil's advocate. I find this diffficult to believe since the question itself gives the answer. I'm also suspicious of the question because it doesn't identify the Cohen text which was only one article in the course textbook, not a textbook itself, and because internal questions in the paragraph -- e.g., "Where does the social meaning of deviance come from?" -- seem unrelated to the example or the entire question the way it is structured).
2) Profesor Robert Dunkley: In an AP report out of Denver that was carried in the Denver Post and other Colorado papers, the following sentences appear: "Criminal Justice Professor Robert Dunkley said it was frightening how far Horowitz has taken the incident without doing thorough research. 'The bottom line is if you're going to make claims you ought to do your best to get the facts, Dunkley told the Greeley Tribune.'" As the Greeley Tribune reported subsequently in a correction article, my staff did attempt to get the facts -- in particular a copy of the exam and of the grade -- but was denied access to both by Dunkley and the University Administration. How "far" on the other hand did I take this story? It was just one anecdote among several in some of my speeches and articles to give a flavor of the abuses by professors like Dunkley (Refer to the exam question Dunkley subsequently supplied to check whether he is an abusive teacher or not.) The little anecdote about the exam was taken far indeed by the opponents of academic freedom, who first "doubted" that it happened (and have never retracted their refuted suspicions) and elevated it to a status far beyond what it had up to then, which is how this whole "controversy" came about.
3) Here's something else fishy about the story put out by Dunkley and the UNC administration:
The following policy is in the Board of trustees manual for faculty.Here is the link: http://www.unco.edu/trustees/Policy_Manual.pdf. It is on page 86 of the manual.
2-3-409 Records. Faculty will maintain student records for at least one calendar year from the date the class ended. Faculty who resign/retire, conclude a term contract, or otherwise terminate their employment with the University will leave all student records with the department chair prior to leaving the University.
Such records include grade books or other documentation for assigning grades; and include exams, papers, projects, etc., which have not been returned to students. The department chair is responsible for collecting this material and having it available upon request. Records need to be collected and retained only to cover the period of time in which a grievance could still be filed, at least one calendar year from the date the last class ended.
From this it looks like Dunkley was either extremely careless or lying when he said that he had destroyed his exams.