‘Stress reduction policies’ let students choose their own grades

By Rob Shimshock

A professor at the University of Georgia created a “Stress Reduction Policy” that allows students who feel “unduly stressed” to choose their own grades.

Richard Watson incorporated the policy into two business courses, Campus Reform reported. The syllabi have since been updated to remove the policy, but an archived version of one is available.

“If you feel unduly stressed by a grade for any assessable [sic] material or the overall course, you can email the instructor indicating what grade you think is appropriate, and it will be so changed,” Watson said in a syllabus revised Friday for MIST 4610: Data Management. “No explanation is required, but it is requested that you consider waiting 24 hours before emailing the instructor.”

The “Stress Reduction Policy” also states that students may leave group work whenever they desire and choose to have their grade not reflect that segment of the course. All exams will be open-book.

“Only positive comments about presentations will be given in class,” the policy continues. “Comments designed to improve future presentations will be communicated by email.”

“While this policy might hinder the development of group skills and mastery of the class material, ultimately these are [a student’s] responsibility,” Watson states in the policy. “I will provide every opportunity for you to gain high level mastery.”

MIST 4550/6550: Energy Informatics, another course taught by the professor, apparently also had the policy, according to Campus Reform. However, both course syllabi were updated Aug. 8 with the policy removed.

Watson is the J. Rex Fuqua distinguished chair for internet strategy at the University of Georgia.

“The University of Georgia applies very high standards in its curricular delivery, including a university-wide policy that mandates all faculty employ a grading system based on transparent and pre-defined coursework,” the University of Georgia said in a statement. The university noted that the professor had removed the policy from the syllabus.

Watson did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

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