"I am writing to you about a serious issue that has emerged with respect to Professor Nzelibe’s contracts exam, which was held yesterday. After the exam we were contacted by some students to tell us that the exam consisted of two questions that had both been distributed by Professor Nzelibe to his contracts class at Northwestern last year as practice questions. This is a clear violation of explicit NYU School of Law policy. We know that some students in your class had seen and worked through both questions, and some other students had seen one of the questions."Exams are graded on a curve, and some of the students you're competing with have seen and worked on the very questions that appear on the exam. Now what? 1. Take another exam, which means putting in another round of studying and worrying that will eat into next semester's energy (and cast a pall on your winter break)? 2. Give everyone in the class a pass/fail grade, which has an effect — though possibly a good one — on your GPA compared to students with other Contracts teachers? 3. Or just have Professor Nzelibe grade the exams as if nothing had ever happened?
#2 seems most fair. It mainly hurts the students who would have done best in Contracts. Maybe they worked hardest in that class or understood the material particularly well. That was the grade that would have pulled up their GPA. It's a windfall for the students who had their biggest problems with Contracts, but basically, no one has to do anymore work and everyone still has a GPA. But they will have a "pass" grade on their transcript they'll have to explain over and over. And this is the option that makes life easiest for the professor. He doesn't have to write another exam, and the work of grading — the least enjoyable part of a lawprof's work — becomes a snap.
So how about a hybrid of ##2&3? The students submit a form choosing whether they want their grade or a Pass/Fail, the professor grades all the exams in the normal way, and the grades are entered as Pass/Fail if the student chose that option. The problem with this is that the students who got the advantage will decline the Pass/Fail option, and their grades, curved against the other students, will reflect the advantage they got. And students who would have gotten their worst grade in Contracts if there had never been a screwup get to exclude that bad grade. So, on average, the students who had Professor Nzelibe will have better GPAs than the students who did not have him. This will affect the job prospects of all of those students.
There is no good solution.