The most essential consideration to keep in mind when evaluating the implementation of the change in the forced curve is the general welfare. Under the auspices of “fairness” should a possible minor harm to a tiny number of individuals be considered worse then a major harm to hundreds of graduating and currently enrolled students? The very reasons which rightly motivated the change in the forced curve ring just as true for those who have already taken classes at George Mason as they do for the students arriving in the fall. A great foolishness and burden has been lifted off the future of George Mason, but the legacy of the abnormally low forced curve which has disadvantaged every currently enrolled student at this law school could be undone as well.
The employers to whom the GPA score mattered never paid attention to our explanation of the details on the transcript. This is why the forced curve was changed. Especially for students approaching graduation, they are still trapped in the same 2.9 Forced curve nightmare as before, with the added danger of being compared unfavorably to later graduating classes. We understand the administration’s position and value judgment on the merits of retroactivity, but their justifications for forgoing retroactivity are not sufficient to justify keeping hundreds of current George Mason students from the benefits of one of the wisest changes of policy at this law school in many years.
Arguments in favor of Retroactivity:
We believe that the Administration’s policy argument behind no retroactive application is this: ‘We have to balance interests. We want to help the maximum number of people while hurting no one.’ While we applaud the Administration’s fair-minded goal to help the maximum number of people while hurting no one, we disagree with the Administration’s viewpoint. The 2.9 curve was an active harm. It actively harmed the vast majority of students. It continues to harm the vast majority of students. Choosing not to remove this harm is not simply ‘failing to help’. It is choosing to leave one very large harm in place, for fear of creating a comparatively tiny new harm.
The overall goal of the grade bump is to make graduates more competitive in the marketplace. Graduating 3Ls enjoy the bump this semester, but it is too-little, too-late. The rising 3Ls still desperately needed the bump for their 2L fall recruiting season, and the rising 2Ls desperately needed the bump last semester, especially given the current economy. This new grade policy was obviously not in place, and their competitiveness suffered. Now graduates and the rising 3L class next year are seeking new positions, still using a GPA largely composed of a now admittedly too low median. It is also unjust to graduating 3Ls who are entering clerkships or who will be unemployed come next year, that they will be competing with the current 2Ls who will have a full year of classes at the new higher curve, and thus an advantage over their predecessors. The harm of the 2.9 curve remains and failing to make the adjustments retroactive is not solving the problem completely.
On harming the students at the very top, it is true there could be certain movement among them. However, it is necessary to ask, which is worse, a minor harm to a tiny number of students who are almost certain to have a job or clerkship after graduation, versus not helping the hundreds of current 3L's, 2L's and 1L's who would be greatly aided by a retroactive grade adjustment? How many A+'s are typically awarded in each class? What is the actual number of students whose rank would be changed? Is that number large enough to weigh against the hundreds helped by retroactivity?
Remember, we must also compare the future semesters of high GPA’s mixed in with the semester of low GPA’s. There is intrinsic unfairness to all students who have taken large numbers of credits sooner, especially over the summer, as they will now be penalized by having amassed a far larger percentage of their graded credits towards graduation under the old lower curve. And the evening students, who are grouped in with day students who have taken more credits (thus more grades under the favorable curve) than themselves (with less credits and less opportunity to equally match them GPA wise with less classes).
The argument that changing grades would not be representative of an earned grade in class because the professor was not operating under the new curve is not compelling for one major reason. The argument that a retroactive change would negate professor's attempts to show strong differentiation among students is contradictory, as a smaller, higher window in which to apply a forced curve is clearly acceptable to professors, given the overwhelming support which the raised forced curve received when voted upon by the faculty.
A retroactive change in the curve is not unfair to people who decided to drop out or transfer because the required minimum GPA for matriculation is also being increased. Further, dropouts or transfer students almost certainly have many reasons for their respective decisions, beyond a marginal difference in a low GPA. Nonetheless, these small groups of people should not hold back the entire law school’s student body. Don’t forget that their GPA would increase at other schools too.
For the foregoing reasons, we humbly petition the leadership of the George Mason School of Law to retroactively apply the new forced curve for all currently enrolled and graduating students.