Sunday, July 18, 2010


In June, in a front-page story in The New York Times, Catherine Rampell reported that in the past two years at least 10 American law schools have changed their grading policies in their students' favor. Loyola Law School Los Angeles has decided to retroactively raise each of its graduates' grade-point average by .333, she wrote, "to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market."

Assuming that lawyers from other schools were indeed graded less rigorously than Loyola's graduates, is it OK to raise the GPAs retroactively? Or should the original GPAs stand, regardless of what other law schools did?

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Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing (, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

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Bill Jacobson said...


The law schools which are retroactively altering their students' GPAs teach their students that fraud is defined as:

A false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury.

The retroactive raising of GPA's by the law school with the sole purpose of making their students "look more attractive" to outside employers would appear to be such a false misrepresentation of fact done specifically to deceive said employers into considering students who otherwise might not be considered.

The school has the option of inflating or deflating grades at the time they are earned and recorded, should it choose. I, myself, was the 'victim' of such post-earning deflation of grades when my law school decided a professor had been too generous but the wholesale inflation of grades already earned and recorded going back years specifically to deceive those outside of the school definitely does not satisfy the moral test, whether or not that would also raise to civil or criminal culpability.

At minimum, these GPAs should be reported with an asterisk. Despite the popular misconception, lawyers are held to high ethical standards... so should the law schools be.

William Jacobson
Cypress, CA

Anonymous said...

Law firms would be aware that a school was more rigorous in their grading policies, and would be able to weigh candidates with that criteria in mind. Isn't that the reason some schools are more prestigious than others, because they have a more difficult curriculum?

Madilyn Bruening
Salt Lake City, UT

ECS said...

grade inflation has become endemic in academia. it's wrong. What to do?

I have NO idea.