Improving college student success by protecting and promoting student academic rights
Jun's physics professor email said: "This 30-student section's final exam average was much higher than other sections, suggesting cheating. Your final exams will be discarded, you'll receive Incomplete grades, and you can retake the final next term". This would put Jun's schedule in chaos, and require re-studying months later. Jun did not cheat, and Jun's section was proctored like the others. But Jun feared complaining might yield worse retribution. So Jun asked for help. CSA simply notified the physics department chair, who promptly informed the prof to follow policy -- either open formal cheating cases with actual evidence, or accept those final exams. The prof accepted the finals.
Much energy is spent on college student success via improved learning materials, pedagogy, cost savings, and more. But a key mostly-unaddressed barrier to student success is "academic mistreatment" like above. CSA aims to change that.
Most professors are great. But a few do a lot of harm -- sometimes with good intentions (like preventing cheating) or simply lacking training. They may violate policy, which is common when nobody is watching. Nearly half of college students report at least one case of severe academic mistreatment -- like unfounded cheating accusations, repeated cancelling of classes, wildly-inconsistent grading, etc. It hurts hundreds of thousands of students annually, who are afraid to speak up due to the power imbalance, don't know what to do, or believe profs have free reign. It contributes to depression, poor grades, and dropout. It disproportionally hurts less-privileged students. It also impacts professors entangled in disputes or demoralized observing mistreatment, and hurts universities who grapple with low graduation rates and want happy alumni.
CSA was formed by professors in 2021 with the mission to promote student success by promoting and protecting students' academic rights. CSA is driven by two key principles: Justice for students, and Unity between professors and students. Other student orgs exist, focused on things like domestic abuse, financial aid, lobbying for laws, but few/none on academic rights. CSA educates students as to what defines severe academic mistreatment versus normal imperfections or professors' academic freedom, so students can self-advocate. CSA educates professors too, to readily-manage courses that follow university policies and best practices. Sometimes, CSA steps in -- often just shining a light on a mistreatment case is a sufficient lever that can prevent serious student harm, as above. CSA can help calm distraught students and serve as a partner/advisor through terrifying processes like false cheating accusations, so the student does not feel entirely alone.
Some affectionally call CSA the "Humane Society for College Students".
CSA is a California-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.
Students: Getting Help
Have you been mistreated by a professor or department and are left wondering "Is that allowed?" Do you want to resolve an academic mistreatment case but don't know how? Do you need outside assistance on a case? CSA helps students resolve academic mistreatment so they have a fairer chance at learning, receiving good grades, and obtaining their degree. CSA also helps professors recognize, address, and prevent mistreatment in their own classes and universities.
Read "What is academic mistreatment" below to learn what's OK and not OK. Read "Taking action" to learn how to address mistreatment.
Need different help?
Try these related organizations.
A list of academic mistreatment cases from around the country
Can't submit homework
A professor required homework be placed in his briefcase before the class bell. Students arriving on time would line up to submit, but the professor would shut the briefcase at the bell, meaning dozens of students couldn't submit their homework.
A professor reused exams each term. Students with access to the previous exams would score 100, and others averaged 65 (a D). When students pointed out the issue, the professor said: "Not my problem."
No makeup exams
A student was hospitalized during final exams. Upon calling the professor before the exam, the professor said no makeup exams would be given, meaning the student (who had a strong A) would get a D in the class.
A professor's English was so broken that is was incomprehensible. Students would attend class just to read assigned homework on the board.
Exam filled with errors
A multiple-choice exam was riddled with errors. The professor wrote over 50 corrections on the board, in illegible writing. Despite massive confusion, no adjustment was made to the grading scale.
A professor would grade exams without a rubric or explanations, with huge variations. On exam 1, a first study partner got an A and a second got an F, while on exam 2, the first got an F and the second an A. When asked how exams were graded, the professor replied "Don't worry."
Won't correct mistake
A student showed a teacher 3 grading mistakes. The teacher admitted to all 3, but only gave points for the first 2, saying they "didn't want to give back too many points."
Before a term, a student added one class and dropped another, submitting the add and drop forms together. At the term's end, his transcript showed the added class, but also the dropped class with an F. The department said nothing could be done.
And now a secret...
These cases aren't from around the country, but all happened to CSA's founder, as a student, at a "good" school. If all that happened to one student, imagine how much more is happening. CSA aims to reduce such academic mistreatment on a national scale, so students have a fairer chance at success.