Professor Irwin Horwitz just F’d his entire class. Texas A&M University isn’t so sure it’s the right decision.
image via (cc) flickr user naive photography
There’s trouble a’brewing deep in the heart of Texas, where a conflict over bad behavior has turned into a debate on academic freedoms at one of that state’s most reputable universities.
Texas A&M Galveston professor Irwin Horwitz claims the students in his Strategic Management class were so poorly behaved that he will no longer teach the course. What’s more, Horwitz has issued failing grades to every student in the class—over thirty, in total—for lacking, as he explained in an email to the students, “the honor and maturity to live up to the standards that Texas A&M holds.”
As first reported by Inside Higher Ed, Horwitz's email cites multiple instances of bad behavior:
Since teaching this course, I have caught and seen cheating, been told to 'chill out,' 'get out of my space,' 'go back and teach,' [been] called a 'fucking moron' to my face, [had] one student cheat by signing in for another, one student not showing up but claiming they did, listened to many hurtful and untrue rumors about myself and others, been caught between fights between students.
The behavior was so bad, Horwitz claims, that the school was forced to post security outside the classroom doors. After requests to teach only the several well-behaved students were turned down by the university, Horwitz writes in his email, he “will no longer be teaching the course, and all are being awarded a failing grade.”
His students, unsurprisingly, are shocked. As senior Jason Shaw told local news station KPRC, “I had never had a problem in the class. I thought I had done pretty well, done pretty well on the first test and then I get an email saying I am going to get an F in the class, it was overwhelming”
But Texas A&M administrators have other plans for Horwitz’s just-F’d students. In a prepared statement to the Houston Chronicle, university provost Patrick Louchouarn walked back the blanket-fail, explaining:
“We hold students accountable if there is evidence of cheating or misconduct. Similarly, we do not allow faculty to punish an entire class if there is no evidence of widespread misconduct or cheating. The University is appropriately evaluating the situation and will have no further comment until we have completed our process of gathering accurate information”
Horwitz cites a different reason for the university’s reluctance to back up his decision to fail the class, claiming, “the administration is all about passing these kids through and making as much money as possible.”
Whether or not University administration officials should be involved in the grading process is an issue of some debate. American Association of University Professors' Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure chair Henry Reichman explained to Inside Higher Ed that while there are situations in which it may be appropriate for a university to intervene when it comes to grading, that process should be enacted by a panel of professors empowered to investigate the situation and make final judgments based on their fact-finding. And, Reichman stressed, behavioral issues should be legitimate grounds for grade determinations.
Horwitz’s department head will take over teaching the course for the remainder of the semester. Horwitz himself, meanwhile, is unapologetic about his decision to fail the class, telling KPRC: “This class is unique. I have never failed a class, it is very rare that I fail students, sometimes learning incorporates tough love.”