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Grade Inflation In Engineering Education At Ohio University

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Academic Standards & Issues/Concerns & Retention

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.673.1 - 10.673.12



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Paper Authors

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Brian Manhire

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3460

Grade Inflation in Engineering Education at Ohio University

Brian Manhire Ohio University


The results of a follow-up study updating a 2001 report of academic standards at Ohio University are presented, and findings for both the University and its Russ College of Engineering and Tech- nology are described, contrasted and compared for 1993, 1999 and 2004. Causes of grade infla- tion in higher education as reported in the literature are describedwith emphasis on recent lit- erature attributing the continuation of grade inflation to the commodification and commercializa- tion of higher education in America.

I. Introduction

Over the past four decades, grade inflation has become a hallmark (pun intended) of American higher education. A significant body of literature now exists which suggests that grade inflation is a serious social problem; part of what Callahan calls The Cheating Culture.1 Nearly everyone involved with higher education is now complicit in grade inflation one way or another, including professors, administrators, governing boards (of trustees, regents, etc.), students and their parents and their eventual employers, politicos and the public they serve. The immorality of this complic- ity speaks for itself and does not bode well for America.

Its causes have been attributed to events and phenomena of the sixties2-3most notably resis- tance to the Vietnam War, the counterculture movement and civil rights advances. These in turn have spawned social/cultural impacts on higher education,4 and in some cases society at large, such as: postmodernism,5-6 the self-esteem movement,7-8 radical feminism,9-10 political correct- ness and multiculturalism,11-13 diversity,14-16 and the politicization16-21 and commercialization22-28 of American campuses. Indeed, the campus has served as a sanctuary, hothouse and social- engineering test-bed for these ideas since the sixties.

To take just one example from this list, consider postmodernism and its relationship to grade in- flation. In his ground breaking book Grade Inflation, Johnson quotes29 Billamoria’s30 postmod- ern justification of grade inflation:

Teachers’ increasing awareness of the biases inherent in modern science is likely to af- fect their evaluations of students’ acquisition of subject matter. Because disciplinary content domains are increasingly open to diverse interpretations and the inclusion of al- ternative representations, the scope of what is legitimate and appropriate knowledge in the academic enterprise is widened. The global questioning of tenets once held to be sin-

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Manhire, B. (2005, June), Grade Inflation In Engineering Education At Ohio University Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15409

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015