Document Type

Article

Publication Title

West's Education Law Reporter

Publication Date

1992

Abstract

Susan "M" v. New York Law School is the most recent decision of a highest court of a state that vindicates the principle of judicial noninterference in academic evaluation of students. Susan"M" has become quite noteworthy, spawning both a major recent law review article exhaustively analyzing all the relevant precedents and poetry. Discussion of the case generates intense interest, particularly among academics (both faculty and administrators) and law students. The former are generally relieved by its outcome; the latter are distressed that they have to aim their developing litigation skills on targets other than their professors.

Our first purpose in this article is to provide another perspective on Susan "M", a strategic one. We will attempt to describe the strategy of the lawyers who represented the academic institution and its supporters. As we will discuss, litigation decisions in the case were based on preserving the principle of noninterference by the judiciary in the day-to-day operation of core academic functions - the grading and evaluation of students. The outcome of the case generally vindicated this choice.

Our second purpose is to editorialize. The New York Court of Appeals decided that, in general, faculty grading decisions are not subject to judicial review. This result, if adopted and followed by other states, leaves individual educational institutions with virtually unlimited discretion in their handling of potential grading disputes with students. We hope that this wide discretion will be properly exercised and the students' interest in rational grading decisions protected by internal faculty policies. We try to identify what we see as the competing values at stake in academic grading controversies and sketch out some of the different paths that academic institutions can follow to balance them.

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