Thursday, June 02, 2016

UCLA Professor shot dead by student "for getting bad grades" #WearOrange #213

Dr William Klug.
Image Source: UCLA.
Awful news from the University of California at Los Angeles yesterday that mechanical engineering professor Dr William Klug was shot dead by a student who then it is believed took his own life. UCLA was locked down for hours as terrified students huddled in classrooms until the all clear was given. Today's Irish Independent is reporting that Dr Klug was allegedly shot by a student because of "bad grades". This killing happened the day before today's National Gun Violence Awareness Day in America - Dr Klug's murder is just one more senseless killing in a country that has a love/hate relationship with guns.

Killing someone over a bad grade is obviously an extreme reaction by the UCLA student (if this is true). There is no doubt that people can react strongly to low grades. I have seen this myself as I have awarded "bad grades" many times, and though I have not experienced anger - I have had several students disagree with the grade I awarded (I once had a student who was very unhappy with a grade of over 80%!). Most, if not all, Colleges have procedures where students can receive formal feedback on grades, and can appeal results. They will also have External Examiners to ensure standards are appropriate. In the end - it is my professional opinion what an assignment/essay/exam is worth. I have to remember that I don't "fail" students, they fail themselves. An academic can be a bit of a snob at times to students ("I have a PhD and years of experience in this subject - what have you got?"), but we can obviously get things wrong just like everyone else. We take great care to make sure the basics are done when grading, for example - adding the marks up correctly and then inputting the grades into the College's systems correctly. It also helps if you have a brilliant Exams Office who check everything. 

The death of William Klug shows that anyone is vulnerable to gun violence. We are all vulnerable to anger and resentment. A "bad grade" can have a life changing effect on a student - it could mean that they lose out on a job application or progression to a higher level course. It could even mean they are paid less than others doing the same job. Getting angry won't change things.

Video promoting National Gun Violence Awareness Day...

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