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HBCU fired professor for complaining about inflated grades: report

Professor says legal action is under consideration

An economics professor alleges he lost his job at a historically black college after complaining about administrators changing his students’ grades without his knowledge. He also is considering legal action against his former employer.

Spelman College reportedly fired Kendrick Morales just prior to the fall semester after he raised concerns about changing grades.

Morales worked for two years as an assistant professor of economics at the private, historically black women’s college in Georgia before losing his job, according to a Nov. 28 story in Inside Higher Ed.

“I was planning to teach in the fall, which was like a couple weeks later,” Morales told the news outlet. “They didn’t give me any kind of warning.”

Last week, Morales received support from the Academic Freedom Alliance, an organization dedicated to college faculty who uphold the principles of academic freedom. In a letter to the college, the alliance urged Spelman to reinstate Morales, according to a news release.

“Spelman College’s actions in this matter involve important issues at the heart of the academic and scholarly enterprise,” Chair Keith Whittington told the college. “Members of the faculty must have the freedom to honestly assess the quality of the academic work of students and their mastery of course materials and concepts.”

One of the college’s complaints was how he graded upper-level students in the fall of 2021, his first semester at Spelman. Morales said he taught two upper-level courses in which several juniors and seniors received failing grades – even after he gave significant curves.

In one class, he gave a 28-point grade bump based on the advice of his department chair, he wrote in a column at The Free Press last month.

“I had assumed that the students would feel relieved—even grateful—to see the improvement in their grades. But I was wrong,” Morales wrote. “When the students saw how low their original grades were—and that the raw average was a failing grade—they turned against me.”

IHE reports further:

The students all began attending virtually instead of in person, and most stopped doing the coursework. Many complained to the chair about their grades the Friday before the final, he wrote.

He wrote that their scores on the final exams were even worse, and he knew the chair would insist on raising them—so he “pre-emptively” raised them 36 points, making a 57 an A.

After his own scaling up of grades, 44 percent of that class would still fail it, according to the calculations Morales provided Inside Higher Ed.

Later, Morales said he learned from Undergraduate Studies Dean Desiree Pedescleaux that she had bumped up the students’ grades again – and without his knowledge.

Then, on July 26 as he was preparing to teach fall classes, Morales said the college informed him that his contract would not be renewed.

The letter about his termination stated that students had “significant complaints” about his grading practices and “complained that instead of conducting full class sessions, you only led brief meetings lasting at sometimes no more than fifteen minutes,” according to IHE.

In a statement to IHS, Spelman College said it “reviewed this matter and has no further comment on the opinions of this former faculty member. Since this is a confidential employment matter, we decline to comment further.”

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IMAGE: Spelman College

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.