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Judge Rules in Favor of Lehigh University in Student Lawsuit

A judge in Northampton County ruled against a graduate of Lehigh University in her lawsuit over a C+ grade, according to the Morning Call. There were four days of testimony in the trial, which was presided over by Judge Emil Giordano. He ruled that the school did not breach its contract and it did not sexually discriminate against student Megan Thode. She was asking for $1.3 million in damages.

Giordano noted that Thode was not able to prove her grade was based on anything other than “purely academic evaluation” and the conclusion by her professor that Thode “was unprepared to move on to the next level” of the courses needed for her degree.

The dean of Lehigh’s College of Education, Gary Sasso, said that the verdict upholds that “the university faculty have the responsibility to fairly evaluate the work of their students, and that academic rigor should not be compromised.”

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“We feel very badly for Megan Thode,” Sasso said. “We hope that in the future she goes forward and does good things. We remain open to conversations with her about her readmission into that program, into our program, and into that class. Nobody really won in this case. We felt like it shouldn’t have gotten this far, but it did.”

Thode’s lawyer, Richard J. Orloski, said, “Is it worth it to try, and lose? Of course. It keeps the system honest, even by losing.”

“It has been a very difficult 31/2 years for Megan,” Stephen Thode, a Lehigh finance professor, said, “and Rick has been marvelous, not only in his official capacity as counsel, but also as someone who Megan saw as understanding of her situation, beyond the legal aspects of it.”

During the closing arguments on Thursday, Orloski told Judge Giordano that his client would be happy if she was awarded just $1, but had her grade changed to a B.

“My clients will be well satisfied by this, and this will be victory for them,” Orloski said, “because this was never intended to be about $1.3 million.”

Neil Hamburg, one of the attorneys for Lehigh, informed Giordano that court systems have deferred to academic institutions for years when it comes to determining what grades students should be given. Hamburg noted that Thode was issued a C+ because she could not self-reflect or take and respond to criticism well.

“It is horrible, and we at Lehigh feel horrible that Ms. Thode chose to bring this lawsuit, to subject herself and Lehigh University to the horror of having a court sit to decide her grievances,” Hamburg said. “It’s tragic.”

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