We get a number of calls from students asking if we can do anything to help change a bad grade. Generally speaking, getting a lawyer will not improve your chances of changing that “D” into a “C,” unless you have been forced to advocate ideas outside the classroom that you disagree with, or when your professor writes, “Ask God what your grade is.” That’s why I read this article with surprise. A student at Lehigh University is suing over a “C+” she received in a counseling program. But testimony revealed that her grade suffered because she failed to participate in classroom discussion.
I am not aware of a case in which a court changed a student’s grade (if you can find one, please send it along). In fact, I’ve read many cases that say universities alone, not even professors, have the final say on grades. One court said:
[I]t is the [u]niversity’s name, not [the professor]‘s, that appears on the diploma; the [u]niversity, not [the professor], certifies to employers and graduate schools a student’s successful completion of a course of study. Universities are entitled to assure themselves that their evaluation systems have been followed; otherwise their credentials are meaningless.
Wozniak v. Conry, 236 F.3d 888, 891 (7th Cir. 2001). If a university or professor retaliates against your constitutionally protected speech by assigning you a bad grade or expelling you from a class, then you might have a claim (and you should contact us). But on the whole, if you get a bad grade, and it’s not in retaliation for your speech, race, sex, or other protected status, then you cannot ask a judge to change it.