Fumbled Response To Rutgers Grade-Fixing Affects Students, Faculty Alike

By David M. Hughes

When academic standards are allowed to erode, the tallest ivory tower can look like a diploma mill

All college graduates depend on the academic reputations of their schools — the value of a degree depends on the quality and reputation of the school that awards it. A Hollywood studio is more likely to employ a 22-year-old leaving the film program considered best in the nation at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts than a peer from just about any other institution.

David M. Hughes
David M. Hughes
But on what does the quality and reputation of this film school or any other academic program depend? This question requires a more complex answer — one bizarrely illuminated through one of the recent football scandals at Rutgers.

The experience, credentials, and research of the teaching faculty give heft to any diploma. “Star professors” are necessary, but not sufficient.

Those teachers must be able to exercise their judgment, passing the students who deserve to pass and failing those who do not. The college, in other words, must uphold the academic freedom of all of its instructors.

Football coach Kyle Flood cares a great deal about his players. He cares particularly that they maintain a grade-point average sufficient to continue playing for the Scarlet Knights. When a failing grade threatened to sideline star cornerback Nadir Barnwell, Coach Flood pressured an instructor to pass him.