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College student sues, says C-plus cost her $1.3 million

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:31 p.m. HST, Feb 13, 2013

EASTON, Pa. >> Talk about grade inflation.

Graduate student Megan Thode wasn't happy about the C-plus she received for one class, saying the mediocre grade kept her from getting her desired degree and becoming a licensed therapist — and, as a result, cost her $1.3 million in lost earnings.

Now Thode is suing her professor and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, claiming monetary damages and seeking a grade change.

A judge is hearing testimony in the case this week in Northampton County Court. Lehigh and the professor contend her lawsuit is without merit. Northampton County Judge Emil Giordana declined to dismiss the suit Wednesday, ruling that there was enough evidence for the suit to proceed, according to The (Easton) Express-Times.

Thode took the class in the fall of 2009. Her instructor, Amanda Eckhardt, testified this week that she stood by the grade, saying Thode failed to behave professionally and thus earned zero out of 25 points in class participation, bumping her down a full letter grade.

"I ... believed she received the grade she earned," Eckhardt said.

The C-plus prevented Thode, an otherwise A student, from going on to the next class and advancing in her professional therapist studies, the newspaper reported. She wound up getting a master's degree in human development instead.

Her attorney, Richard Orloski, argued that Eckhardt targeted Thode because she is an outspoken advocate for gay marriage.

Eckhardt testified that while she believes marriage is between a man and a woman, she would never allow her personal views to influence her treatment of students. She said Thode had outbursts in class, did not participate appropriately, was emotionally unstable and failed to heed a warning letter.

Stephen Thode, the plaintiff's father and a longtime finance professor at Lehigh, testified on his daughter's behalf and said her participation score was highly irregular.

"I have never heard of a case, not just at Lehigh, where a student achieved a zero in class participation where they attended and participated in every class," he said.

Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano is presiding over the nonjury trial and is expected to rule on Thode's lawsuit after testimony concludes.

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allie wrote:
on February 13,2013 | 12:29PM
Allie, you've got to come up with another word. You might also want to hire a lawyer in case you get sued for 1.2million based on the fact you abuse the word "YIKES". You could be charged with "abuse" of the english language, or multiple counts of manslaughter-cause your killing me and lot of readers! JUST SAYIN' expand your vocabulary.
on February 13,2013 | 02:54PM
csdhawaii wrote:
Well, there's more to this story than meets the eye, but...aren't you allowed to re-take a class if you need to, even if you didn't fail it? Especially if your grade, in this case a C , prevents you from graduating or getting your desired degree.
on February 13,2013 | 01:12PM
niimi wrote:
Many graduate degree programs do not allow repeating a class.
on February 13,2013 | 04:38PM
kaizuhboy wrote:
Yahoo had this story yesterday. She also got free tuition because her father is big money.
on February 13,2013 | 01:21PM
niimi wrote:
So what's your point?
on February 13,2013 | 04:38PM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
I can't imagine she's going to win, but if she does, there should be a stipulation to the reward. It gets paid as an annuity over the course of the average employee's career...say, 30 years. What the article doesn't say: would a participation score of 1 get her a B-? What did her score need to be in order to keep her in the B range?
on February 13,2013 | 01:22PM
niimi wrote:
Your nitpick of her grade ratio is not valid. She can call every other student on that class as a witness, subpoena their grading detail, and use that as a baseline of her level of participation versus the rest of the class. She can point out that she was a straight A student otherwise. She can further point out that she was doing A level work in that class such that, even with a zero grade for class participation her grade for the course was still at C . She can then state that she had in fact attended every class and participated, and with witness testimony from her peers. I actually concur that her earnings payout should be over the course of a normal career, say evenly through the age of 65, but with an adjuster for inflation to ensure that the $1.3 million in 2013 dollars in increments is adjusted as such.
on February 13,2013 | 04:38PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Your little scenario overlooks the fact that the student was given a written notice regarding her conduct, which verifies her awareness of the teacher's assessment. Had she disputed the notice she should have challenged the teacher then, especially since she's alluding to discrimination as the underlying cause.
on February 13,2013 | 06:54PM
false wrote:
"Thode failed to behave professionally and thus earned zero out of 25 points in class participation, bumping her down a full letter grade." Sounds like she was challenging the instructor in class and seen as belligerent.
on February 14,2013 | 04:09AM
rrkriete wrote:
Glad suit was thrown out. Sounds like she needs a licensed therapist.
on February 13,2013 | 01:39PM
niimi wrote:
It wasn't thrown out, it is just getting started. Pay attention.
on February 13,2013 | 04:33PM
st1d wrote:
her father is a finance professor at lehigh who also oversees some fundraising for lehigh. thus, she receives free tuition, along with an inflated perception that she is gifted and entitled to a straight a grading. her lawyer compared apples to oranges in coming up with an over estimated projected loss of income.

imagine the results, if a student were graded on how much a parent paid in bribes to the school.

if she wins, the award should be limited to her paid tuition: $0.00.

on February 13,2013 | 01:47PM
allie wrote:
good points
on February 13,2013 | 02:44PM
niimi wrote:
Completely wrong; she should get the $1.3 Million--NET! Read the facts. She was straight A student in all other classes, AND she was doing A work in this particular class except in the aspect of class participation in which the professor assigned a grade of zero 0, and even after she had attended and participated in every single class. The fact that her tuition was free has no bearing on her grade or the litigation reward sought.
on February 13,2013 | 04:32PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Could you provide some reference regarding your statement that this student was achieving an "A" in this class? That important fact doesn't seem to appear in this article, so I'm sure you have some other source you'll share with us.
on February 13,2013 | 06:59PM
st1d wrote:
attending and disrupting class in an unprofessional manner is much different from attending and participating. upon receipt of the letter describing her unacceptable behavior and the steps thode needed to take to correct the behavior to achieve an a grade, thode became emotionally unstable and said that she needed to talk to her daddy and get a lawyer. classic narcissist. even a high school classmate describes thode as a knucklehead and a crybaby. wouldn't want to be depending on thode for any therapy.
on February 13,2013 | 08:20PM
jimmyhouse67 wrote:
If she was getting an A in the class 25 pts would not have dropped her to a C no matter how you look at it. I assume she wasn't an A student after all
on February 14,2013 | 05:41AM
bleedgreen wrote:
I hope she wins her case.
on February 13,2013 | 03:29PM
hawaiikone wrote:
on February 13,2013 | 07:06PM
Mythman wrote:
Gotta love a good lawsuit to keep the aholes who think they can walk all over people in check.......
on February 13,2013 | 03:48PM
niimi wrote:
on February 13,2013 | 04:29PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Why don't we wait and see who the ahole is.
on February 13,2013 | 07:00PM
soundofreason wrote:
No need to wait. I've been told time and time again it's me.
on February 13,2013 | 07:12PM
jm3 wrote:
y didnt she just repeat the course instead of majoring in something different?...
on February 13,2013 | 03:50PM
niimi wrote:
Read the facts. She was straight A student in all other classes, AND she was doing A work in this particular class except in the aspect of class participation in which the professor assigned a grade of zero 0, and even after she had attended and participated in every single class.
on February 13,2013 | 04:31PM
hawaiikone wrote:
"AND see was doing A work in this particular class". Says who?
on February 13,2013 | 07:02PM
niimi wrote:
Read carefully and closely, folks. This appears to be a retaliatory act on the part of the professor. Reading the circumstances, she showed up for and participated in every class during the term. How then is that deserving of a grade of "zero" for class participation? The instructor had to know the degree program terms that if she didn't get at least a "B-" she was hosed. Her grades are strong--As in every other class. Her grades had to be strong in every other aspect of the class whereby if a grade of zero for class participation still yielded a grade of a C . I believe the professor is in the wrong.
on February 13,2013 | 04:28PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Or, read even closer folks. This appears to be a gay supporter, who after finding out her instructor was not in agreement with her position decided to take the debate into the classroom, where she became quite a disruptive factor. Faced with a similar situation a lot of other teachers would probably have just removed her from the class. Perhaps the rest of the class should consider demanding compensation from this brat for the loss of instructional time and it's possible influence on their future earnings as well. Just a suggestion, why don't we wait and see what shakes out, rather than believe either my scenario or the one posted above me.
on February 14,2013 | 06:59AM
cojef wrote:
Bast comment so far. Agreed the issue is over gay rights and a confrontation between student/instructor. Thus far, the courts would determine as to who is meritorious.
on February 14,2013 | 09:50AM
niimi wrote:
I would have litigated for $1.3 Million net after taxes in missed earnings plus $5 Million in punitive damages, but I would offer the following. If the school admits to wrongdoing then I'd accept a waiver of punitive damages, a reduced amount of missed earnings to $750,000. Far, far too many entities get off with settlements without admitting wrongdoing, and that very fact makes those in society much less likely to be accountable to their own actions.
on February 13,2013 | 04:41PM
SomebodyElse wrote:
"give" her a B, refund her tuition and pay for her to attend grad school so she can pursue the career of her dreams. If she was so unprofessional, one wonders if she would have been so successful in a career as a therapist. If all she cares about is money, she was able to get a degree in a field that had comparable earning potential. She should NOT be compensated for something she might have been successful at. Pay for her to go to grad school only if she pursues her degree as a licensed therapist.
on February 13,2013 | 06:28PM
hawaiikone wrote:
Maybe, rather than judging this case and making awards, like the poster above, perhaps we should wait for the results of an investigation.
on February 13,2013 | 07:04PM
hikine wrote:
Blaming for her failure in the guise of being a gay advocate is atrocious! She might have attending her classes but participation in a professional way is the key. As the news item states she is very 'outspoken' and probably irritated her professor for continuously rambling about her belief to the class. The professor controls the class, not its students.
on February 13,2013 | 06:41PM
chuck4664 wrote:
wow, i should sue. maybe we all should sue, My 3.33 gpa 35 years ago prevented me from entering the MBA program.
on February 13,2013 | 06:51PM
soundofreason wrote:
I could have been a brain surgeon if only my teachers encouraged me more :/
on February 13,2013 | 07:14PM
st1d wrote:
or if they just gave you straight "a" report cards to boost your self esteem.
on February 13,2013 | 09:37PM
ready2go wrote:
This student has learned very well and will be a succcess! "Sue em"!
on February 14,2013 | 05:53AM
anotherlocal wrote:
Why even hear the case? Should've been thrown out! Student has too many options to better her grade. She chose to be lazy and just let it slide. Money won't buy you everything, dear.
on February 14,2013 | 09:43AM
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