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University of Michigan probed on claim it falsified student grades

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The University of Michigan is being accused of falsifying students’ grades this past semester. U-M said Wednesday that it acted ethically. (Ken Wolter /
  • The University of Michigan is under review by its accrediting body for allegedly falsifying students’ grades this past semester
  • The graduate student worker union president filed the complaint with the Higher Learning Commission
  • The union said it provided the HLC evidence from students and faculty to bolster its complaint

The University of Michigan is being reviewed by its accrediting body after the graduate student worker union filed a complaint alleging the school falsified students’ grades this past semester while grad students were on strike. 

The Higher Learning Commission is looking into whether the university is in compliance with the body’s criteria for accreditation, according to a letter obtained by Bridge Michigan from HLC to Graduate Employees’ Organization President Jared Eno. 

The Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), which represents graduate student instructors and staff assistants, has been on strike since March 29, late in U-M’s recently completed semester. 


Union members, who routinely grade the work of undergraduate students, chose not to submit grades while they were on strike. The union contends the university instead submitted student grades that do not accurately reflect the work students completed during the semester. 

GEO spokesperson Amir Fleischmann told Bridge on Wednesday he estimates there are hundreds of instances where a graduate student instructor was the sole instructor of a class and, once they went on strike, students were then given straight A’s by other university employees. 

He estimates there are likely thousands of student grades where instructors gave grades based on “incomplete information.” 

“I hope that their investigation yields the truth, which is that the University of Michigan has fabricated hundreds and hundreds of grades,” Fleischmann said. 

“That a transcript from the University of Michigan isn't worth the paper it's written on because now if you’re (an) undergraduate applying for grad school or applying for a job or anything that would need to look at your transcript, nobody will be able to know if the A you've received is real or fake.” 

U-M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald said in a statement Wednesday the university is aware of a complaint filed to the HLC and will respond directly to the organization within 30 days. 

“While we are confident the university has acted ethically and well within legal bounds on all matters brought forth, we look forward to fully engaging with the Higher Learning Commission's review and continuing a valued relationship that has extended for more than a century with this accreditor,” he said. 

Fleischmann said the union’s complaint included testimonials from graduate student instructors who had  “grades entered on their behalf without their permission and that don't reflect the progress or the learning that their students did over their course of the term,” as well as messages from administrators that discuss grading during the strike.

He said the complaint included letters from department chairs who say they were pressured by upper administration “to get grades in by any means necessary” and messages from administrators that say they are “empowering non instructional staff to input grades” and that students will be getting grades that don’t reflect their course progress.

The review adds another wrinkle to an already contentious relationship between the union and the university. Negotiations over a new contact for the grad students began last November. 

Since then, the university sued the union and both groups filed unfair labor practice complaints against each other. Last week, the university and union announced they had reached an agreement where both sides would drop their unfair labor practice complaints and the university would drop its lawsuit against the union. (The university can refile that lawsuit at any time, according to the University Record.) 

The strike is ongoing. 

The Higher Learning Commission will gather information this summer from the university, according to the organization’s letter to the union president. 

“Upon initial review of your complaint, HLC determined that the matter regarding University of Michigan raises potential concerns regarding the institution’s compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation,” the HLC letter to the union president states. “Due to these potential concerns, HLC will conduct a further review of the institution based on your complaint.”

The review includes giving the university 30 days to respond to the concerns in writing and provide “appropriate supporting evidence.” 

Generally, HLC also reviews additional information from a university within 30 days of receiving it, according to HLC’s online explanation of the complaint process.

The letter to the union president states that if the review leads to a formal evaluation of U-M, the HLC will update its website to reflect that. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, the website shows UM having an “assurance review” dated for June 10, 2024 and a comprehensive evaluation scheduled for 2029-2030.

HLC Public Information Officer Laura Janota told Bridge Wednesday that assurance reviews are typically conducted in the fourth year of a school’s ten-year accreditation cycle. She said the organization does not publicly comment on complaints. 

The University of Michigan Board of Regents is expected to meet at 4 p.m. Thursday. Fleischmann said he hopes the board will announce it will investigate the union’s allegations concerning student grades. 

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