Lehigh Student Sues University for C+ Grade

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 14, 2013

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Lehigh University CrestMegan Thode, a former graduate student at Lehigh University, is suing the school for breach of contract and sex discrimination based on a C+ grade she received in 2009. The grade, given to her by a professor in a fieldwork class, ultimately prevented her from moving forward in her masters program and pursuing her intended career, with a resulting loss of $1.3 million in earning potential. According to Thode’s attorney, Richard Orloski, Thode is alleging that the grade was the result of an effort to force her out of the department and that she was marked down because she advocated for gay and lesbian rights.

University Defends Grade – Questions Remain About Claimed Damages

The university is countering that Thode got the grade she deserved, that the professor justifiably gave her a failing score for participation and that no such discrimination occurred. Testimony during trial revealed that Thode had filed internal complaints challenging the grade, but to no avail. Further testimony by university personnel showed that the school did not believe that Thode was ready for a counseling career and that she lacked the professionalism, self-reflection and the ability to listen to and accept criticism required of the profession.

Much has been made of the fact that Megan Thode is the daughter of a finance professor at Lehigh and, as such, was attending the university for free. In addition to this tidbit, it’s important to note that Thode went on to finish a degree in a related field at Lehigh. These are important facts, facts that may prove to be important in the determination of Thode’s alleged damages if she prevails on the substance of her case.

Can Court Change Student’s Grade?

Judge Emil Giordano, the judge presiding over this case, did express reluctance to order the university to change Thode’s grade, according to The Express Times. “I remain unconvinced the judiciary should be injecting itself in the academic process,” he said. Possibly fueling his reluctance is the fact that neither he nor Thode’s attorney could fine legal precedent for a court to change a student’s grade.

Thode’s case is in its fourth day and is expected to go to verdict today.

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