UCSB professor Charles A. Akemann delivered failing grades to an extremely high ratio of students in his Math 3A and 3B courses last quarter, leaving many students scrambling to retake the introductory courses.
Since the course sequence is a requirement for all engineering majors and most science and math majors, many of the students who flunked complain that they are now struggling to crash these highly impacted classes. Although Akemann’s course syllabi did stipulate a strict lack of a grading curve, these introductory calculus courses have rarely seen so many failures, officials said.
According to Glenn Beltz, professor and associate dean of undergraduate studies in the College of Engineering, his department reviewed the grades of Akemann’s Math 3A and 3B students at the end of the quarter as part of routine procedure to keep track of students on academic probation. After review, Beltz said, his office determined the large number of failures to be unusual, as nearly 40 percent of engineering majors who took Math 3A with Akemann will need to retake it.
While Beltz noted that a professor has the right to set the grading scale however he or she deems appropriate, the significant number of failures prompted the department to examine the unusual situation.
Ricardo Alamillo, engineering student council co-chair, said professor Akemann created a difficult learning environment for students. Alamillo also noted that given the economic climate, students may have trouble staying on course for graduation.
“There were kids enrolled in the summer transition [program] who were highly prepared…and they were surprised that this was what they did horrible in,” Alamillo , a fourth-year chemical engineering major, said.
Mathematics Dept. chair Jeffrey Stopple, however, said Akemann flunked students according to the established guidelines of the course.
“Professor Akemann volunteered to teach both of these courses,” Stopple said. “I spoke with [him] and made sure that the grades were assigned based on the criteria in the syllabus he gave out at the beginning of the quarter.”
As of press time, the Daily Nexus was unable to reach Professor Akemann for comment.
Beltz said he is confident Akemann’s students will still be able to stay on track with their major requirements.
“The Math Department has been extraordinarily helpful to make space for [them],” he said. “I am confident that [they] will catch up in a timely manner.”
Mary Nisbet, acting dean of undergraduate education for the College of Letters and Science, said she worked with Stopple and Beltz to discuss making room for math students in need of retakes.
“[We’ve] worked before the break to find ways to allow as many students as possible to progress,” she said. “Some extra courses had already been added for winter and the department is seeking extra support from the dean of Mathematics, Life and Physical Sciences for spring and summer school classes.”