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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Prof's Daughter, Attending University for Free, Sues for $1.3 Million Over C+ Grade

LehighThe Morning Call:  Lehigh University Student Sues Over Grade, Seeks $1.3 Million:

Megan Thode isn't the first Lehigh University student who was unhappy with the grade she received in a course. But she may be the first to sue to get it changed. The C+ that Thode was given scuttled her dream of becoming a licensed professional counselor and was part of an effort to force her out of the graduate degree program she was pursuing, said her lawyer, Richard J. Orloski, whose lawsuit seeks $1.3 million in damages.

Orloski said his client is the victim of breach of contract and sexual discrimination, and a civil trial began Monday before Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano over the claims. They're nonsense, said Neil Hamburg, an attorney for Lehigh University. 

"I think if your honor changed the grade, you'd be the first court in the history of jurisprudence to change an academic grade," Hamburg told Giordano. ...

Thode, the daughter of Lehigh finance professor Stephen Thode, was attending the Bethlehem school tuition-free in 2009 when she received the poor mark in her fieldwork class. But instead of working to address her failings, she "lawyered up" and demanded a better grade, Hamburg said. ...

After getting the C+, Thode unsuccessfully filed internal grievances over the grade, showed up for meetings with her father, and insisted that Carr give her a written apology and a "plan for compensating me financially," Sacks said.

With Thode on the witness stand Monday, Sacks underscored that Lehigh paid Thode's freight — not just as a graduate student, but as an undergraduate at York College of Pennsylvania — because her father is a professor. Sacks also said the university set her up with jobs over the course of her attendance.

"Even after you sued Lehigh, you were getting free tuition and working for Lehigh?" Sacks asked.

"Yes," Thode acknowledged.

Thode ended up graduating from Lehigh with a master's degree in human development — which is also offered through the College of Education — and now works as a drug-and-alcohol counselor. The $1.3 million she is seeking represents the difference in her earning power over her career if she was instead a state-certified counselor, according to Orloski.

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You have to try pretty hard to get a C+ in "Human Development." That's like an F double minus in a real academic field.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 13, 2013 5:09:22 AM

This sounds like a case where sanctions against the plaintiff are appropriate. It woudl be good if the judge could grant them sua sponte, since the university might not want to look tough but frivolous plaintiffs need to be deterred for the public good.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Feb 13, 2013 7:49:43 AM