Accreditor finds no ‘substantive noncompliance’ in U-M winter grading


The Higher Learning Commission, an independent body that accredits the University of Michigan, has determined a complaint made regarding grading at the end of the 2023 winter term was “not indicative of substantive noncompliance” and warranted no further review.

The decision comes two months after the HLC announced it was conducting an “assurance review” of the university after it received a complaint on May 30. The Graduate Employees Organization claimed in their public communications to have filed the complaint. 

The complaint alleged U-M had submitted inaccurate end-of-term grades for students in class sections left without an instructor when many GEO members walked off the job March 29 amid an ongoing contract dispute.

The union represented about 2,300 graduate student instructors and graduate student staff assistants during the winter term.

While the union encouraged its members as well as faculty members to withhold final grades, university leaders asked deans to work with department chairs and faculty members to ensure all students received grades as soon as possible.  

“We are pleased with the Higher Learning Commission’s decision. We hope this independent assessment of the university’s actions reassures our community that we acted ethically, and in the best interests of the tens of thousands of students we serve,” Provost Laurie McCauley said. 

GEO officials said they were disappointed by the HLC’s decision to discontinue its investigation into “U-M’s mass falsification of grades,” but added that other organizational bodies, including U-M’s Faculty Senate and the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors, “will continue to hold U-M accountable for its actions.”

“Many students who received A’s in their courses last term may not have obtained the necessary skills promised by their grade, and may not be prepared for more challenging courses they might take in the future,” said Lina Alam, GEO communications co-chair. “U-M’s willingness to fabricate grades en masse shows the university cares more about checking a box than actual education.”

The union and university have yet to reach an agreement on a new contract. The previous one expired on May 3. 

The university’s latest proposal fell through last week after GEO leaders did not respond to the offer by the university’s deadline. That deal would have provided GSIs and GSSAs on the Ann Arbor campus with 20% in total raises over the next three years — 8%, 6% and 6%, respectively — along with a $1,000 bonus this fall.


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