Psychology students launch petition to raise their grades


Lauren Ussery

Students in Marlone Henderson’s “Intro to Psychology” class have recently created a petition asking for a raise in grades. The students believe that there has been a discrepancy in this semester’s grades compared to that of past semesters.

Leila Ruiz

While many students resign themselves to bad grades or use poor scores to motivate themselves to study harder for finals, students of Marlone Henderson’s Introduction to Psychology class started an online petition to ask their professor to raise their grades, claiming the grade distribution in the class was significantly worse than in previous PSY 301 classes.

“We, the undersigned, request that every grade of every student in our Introduction to Psychology class is increased by a minimum of 5 points … The percentage of students in our class with an A average is 6% — that is well below a historical average of 33.2% (averaged from a total of ten PSY 301 classes from the past),” the petition said. “As a result of this discrepancy, we are concerned.”

The 33.2 percent average, which was calculated from MyEdu according to class member Jason Dayvault, an accounting and history senior, includes both A and A- grades.

James Pennebaker, Introduction to Psychology professor and chair of the department, said the average number of A students in PSY 301 has historically been much lower than 33 percent. According to Pennebaker, the percentage of students who made A’s in the class was 15.6 percent in 2011, 15.1 percent in 2012 and 22 percent in 2013. 

“Note that 2013 was an abnormality because of the change in our grading approach,” Pennebaker said. “It will likely return to around 15 percent next year.”

These classes do not use the plus-minus system as Henderson’s class does. Henderson’s class exam average for students in the A-range is 16.8 percent.

Madison Yeats, a communications sciences and disorders freshman, is a student of Henderson’s who said she stands firmly behind the petition. 

“An exam would potentially cover 200-300 pages of reading plus the random lecture topics chosen for said time-period for the exam,” Yeats said in an email. “Even with intensive studying and a clear understanding of the material, you could perform inadequately on the exam. … It has been extremely stressful and caused much anger with me and other people affiliated with this class.”

Henderson, who does not plan to change class grades in response to the petition, said he wished the petition had been written earlier in the year because he said it provides a strong psychological case study.

“I think what it reflects … somebody doesn’t have the grades they want … and so they’re looking for attribution, explanations,” Henderson said. “You can either look to yourself or look to the situation to explain [a grade] — I think [the petition] is just a salient feature in the environment that people can use to explain an outcome that they’re not happy with.”