(updated 1/9/04 — see link below)
Administrators of the University of Alabama refused this summer to release grade distribution data, citing “workload issues.”
Since 1990, the data has been collected and printed by the Office of Institutional Research (OIR), directed by William Fendley. Last year, members of the ASA consulted the OIR data to compile a report on grade distortion and grade inflation. Our report documented truly alarming statistics, revealing, for example, that some programs (e.g., “Women’s Studies,) routinely award 80% A’s to their students.
Our study was published in the Alabama media, including the Tuscaloosa News, the Birmingham News, The Strip, and The Crimson White. It also became the focus of discussions in the Alabama legislature.
Senior administrators apparently did not like our report. Instead of taking steps to correct the problem, they chose to deny, conceal, and obfuscate. We attempted this summer to review data collected since our 2002 report, to see whether or not last year’s discussion had any effect on grade inflation. Fendley and the OIR refused to supply the information. In fact, Fendley revealed that he had abruptly terminated the 13 year-old program of data collection and publication. Neither Roger Thompson, University Registrar, nor Judy Arnold, Director of Data Services, were aware of Mr. Fendley’s decision.
There is now no way for the public to obtain the data. They have been deep-sixed.
We believe university adminstrators are embarassed by a problem they themselves have helped create. Rightly so. And under the Alabama Open Records Law, they are required to provide access, even to data that are embarassing.
But here’s the catch: If they refuse compile the data in the first place, then there is nothing to “open.” We cannot force them to provide access to data that don’t exist. And they know that. It is a deeply cynical ploy, and deeply unworthy of the University.
SEE the letters written to President Witt and Provost Bonner concerning our request for access to the grade information. We have received no response.