A former Duke lacrosse player has filed a civil suit against Duke University and a professor, charging that the teacher unfairly gave him a failing grade after an escort service dancer said she was raped at a lacrosse team party....
The lawsuit said [Kyle] Dowd and another lacrosse player -- neither of whom was charged in the sexual assault -- were in [Kim] Curtis' "Politics and Literature" class last spring. Before the scandal broke, the lawsuit said, both players were passing the course. But after the rape case made news, both players failed the final assignment, and Dowd's final grade was an F. The players were the only ones to receive F's, the lawsuit said....
The lawsuit said Kyle Dowd had a 3.4 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale going into his last semester at Duke. He got a C-plus and a C-minus on the first two papers in Curtis' class, according to the suit. Curtis had told students they would be graded on three papers and class participation, with each counting 25 percent toward the final grade.
When Dowd contested the grade, Curtis sent him an e-mail message saying she had failed him in class participation because he had missed the last month of the class, according to the lawsuit. Dowd had to miss five class sessions to meet with lawyers in the investigation that focused on the team, the lawsuit said.
You missed a month of class when class participation is 25% of the grade? It seems to me that you ought to have better evidence of the defendant's wrongdoing before you file a case... Hey! What does that remind me of?ADDED: This post got a lot of comments, nearly all of them siding with the student and many of them criticizing me for seeming to side with the professor, so I'll say a little something more. First, this is a very minimal post. It does not directly express my opinion of the whole affair. So let me make several additional points that may let you see how I think about these things:
1. I don't like to see lawsuits, especially by students who are suing their teachers because they don't like their grades. At some point, I accept the need for lawsuits. For example, when I went to college, at the University of Michigan, one of the professors was reported to tell his students that women shouldn't become what he was teaching students to be and that therefore women could only get, at best, a B in his course. If these reports were true, he clearly deserved to be sued.
2. Complaining about your grade when you've missed a month of class looks very bad to me. His excuse -- that he was always meeting with lawyers -- sounds lame. Commenters who disagree are extracting material from his legal complaint. They need to recognize that they are looking at the student's version of the story. You should wait to hear all the facts before being so sure you know what happened. And if you don't see that you're acting like the people who assumed the truth of the prosecutor's side of the rape story, you need to think again.
3. Obviously, many teachers are biased in how they present material in class and how they judge what the students write. It may well be that Curtis has a very strong point of view and isn't fair to students who say divergent things, but I don't think students should sue teachers for that. Your remedies are mostly internal to the university. There is not a good role for courts to play here. Students will often say that a teacher has been "unfair," and they are sometimes right. But think what would happen if courts welcomed lawsuits like this. How many students would find ways to say their teachers had some personal grudge about them? Do you really want all these lawsuits? The cost of the lawyers for the teachers will need to be reflected in the tuition that all students pay.
4. The students who were involved in the Duke incident have reason to be outraged about what happened to them, but we should also see that they are playing hardball and that it is possible for them to go too far.