Get a C, File a Lawsuit.

by David Nieporent on October 4, 2007

In the Fall 2006 semester, Brian Marquis got a C in his “Problems in Social Thought” class at the University of Massachusetts. Apparently attempting to prove he learned more about the problems than about the solutions, he immediately proceeded to file a federal class action lawsuit alleging that the school, its trustees, his professor, and various deans violated his constitutional right to get an A.

In a rare case of speedy resolution, it took the court just four months from the time the lawsuit was served on the defendants for the court to dismiss the case; that might have had something to do with the fact that Marquis was proceeding pro se, and drafted a semi-grammatical complaint with no legitimate causes of action. (For instance, he listed a racial discrimination statute as one of his causes of action, despite being white and failing to allege that race played any role in the matter.)

Still, that hardly means the suit was cost-free; as one of the defendants put it, “It ended up just wasting a lot of people’s time and money.” Moreover, Marquis says that he’s thinking of appealing. But lest you think that Marquis just had sour grapes, he had a good reason for filing the suit:

Marquis – who salts his comments with “strike that” – acknowledged he was alarmed the C might lower his grade point average and make him less attractive to a law school.

The C has rendered his transcript a “dismal record of non-achievement,” his suit said. Marquis, who enrolled at UMass-Amherst in spring 2006, said he has roughly a B-plus average.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that “Has a history of filing lawsuits against his school and his professors” on his résumé isn’t actually going to make him more attractive to a law school. (Although his 2004 lawsuit against his previous school didn’t keep him from being admitted to the University of Massachusetts.)

(h/t Kerr @ Volokh)

{ 2 comments }

1 VMS 10.04.07 at 8:42 pm

Check out the guy’s arithemetic in para. 16 of his complaint:

16. When the semester concluded, Plaintiff finished with response papers of 5.4, 4. 4.5 (out of possible 5s) equaling 17.5% out of a possible 20%; exam papers of 23, 22.50: 19.50 (out of possible 25%) equaling 65% out of a possible 75%; and 5 percent for class participation. a) The difference of 17.5% from 20:% equals 3.5%, b) the difference of 65% from 75% equals 10%; thus 10%
plus 3.5% equals 13.5% minus 10% equals 87.5% and c) 5% for class participation equates into a 92.5% (87.5% plus 5%) out of a possible 100% numeric grade, translating, by universally accepled standards, into an “A-” letter grade.

2 Don Long 10.09.07 at 9:18 pm

I’m against the lawsuit, but the guy brings up an interesting point.

Based on the material, he should have received an A. Because the instructor graded on a curve, he was given a C.

The interesting thing: why grade on a curve? If you know 90% or 91% of what a class (or individual exam) asks, then you should get an A-, or whatever. He got the C because nobody in the class was challenged by the material.

I believe grades should be based on knowledge of the material, not on knowledge compared to classmates. In any given class, a student could find himself alongside geniuses, or idiots, and his grade would be falsely moved up or down — when a curve is used.

Comments on this entry are closed.