Tulane students campaign to implement mandatory blind grading

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Emma Vaughters | Layout Editor

Apoorva Verghese, Intersections Editor

Over the past few weeks, Tulane’s campus has seen protests against the presence of Tulane Univeristy Police Department, campaigns denouncing the Greek life system and a faculty-led strike against racial injustice. 

These movements and others that vocally condemn institutions of oppression are crucial, but alone, they are not enough. The goal of any social movement is to implement change at every level and combat manifestations of oppression. 

The question thus arises as to how we transform this momentum into sustainable change. One initiative at Tulane is dedicated to long-lasting change by implementing a mandatory blind grading system. 

Blind grading hides a student’s identifying information, specifically their name, and replaces it with an ID code or randomly generated number. That way, graders can’t see which student’s assessment they’re grading. 

The initiative to make blind grading mandatory for all classes was first conceptualized by Undergraduate Student Government senator Mia Harris. Since then, she has been joined by fellow senator Da’Sean Spencer and Ingeborg Hyde, vice president of academic affairs. 

The justification of blind grading is that students, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds, are negatively affected by implicit biases. Though not necessarily intentional or malicious, professors harbor implicit biases that can manifest in discriminatory grading practices and lead to students getting unfair grades due to their race, gender, appearance or other factors.  

“I really don’t want to have other students feel this way, feel like their GPA could be based on something other than their performance or their talent,” Harris said. 

Blind grading, while not common in undergraduate classes, is a frequently used grading system in graduate schools, including law school programs. Even within undergraduate institutions, however, blind grading is not an entirely foreign concept. For example, Undergraduate Learning Assistants at Yale are expected to use blind grading mechanisms, though the same is not required of professors. 

The idea of a blind grading system is promising for several reasons. For one, it’s incredibly simple to implement in undergraduate classes. Commonly used platforms such as Canvas, which is currently used at Tulane, have built-in features to allow blind grading. Establishing a blind grading system, then, wouldn’t require any extra work on the grader’s side aside from choosing the feature. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that a blind grading system doesn’t just benefit students, but can be seen as a protective measure for graders. Being unable to identify the student behind each assessment means graders don’t have to worry about projecting their biases, nor do they have to worry about being accused of discriminatory practices. 

Nevertheless, blind grading is still subject to controversy. The primary issue with blind grading is that it doesn’t allow for a grader to track a student’s progress throughout the class. Blind grading doesn’t eliminate personal interactions between professors and students, however. Students would still have the option to approach their professor at any time to ask for help or discuss an assessment. 

The work of initiatives such as this go far beyond just altering the grading system. “This kind of work sets a precedent and continues to open the door for other changes,” Spencer said. Initiatives like this one are part of a larger movement for equality. While they are intended to enact change individually, these programs also act as propellers for further reform. 

When it comes down to it, implementing blind grading systems is meant to ensure that students don’t face stress over possibly being graded unfairly due to their race, gender, appearance or any other factor. “At the end of the day, it’ll give students peace of mind to know that their work is being graded on their merit and not based on anything else, which is the goal of academia,” Hyde said. 

As the Tulane community continues to build on the momentum created by the recent racial justice protests, students and faculty need to consider not only how our actions will affect the immediate community, but how it will affect students of Tulane years from now.

“I just want to encourage students to think about other students,” Harris said. “We all need to take sustainable action, change like this that is truly going to affect the life of someone at Tulane six years from now.”

Anyone interested in sharing their experience with academic discrimination can complete this form or use the QR code below. 

If you’re interested in joining the blind grading initiative, reach out to Mia Harris at [email protected].

blind grading QR code