A professor in Istanbul was handed down a suspended sentence of five months for "abuse of duty" after she was charged with unfairly giving low grades to a student.
Savash Porgham Rezaeieh filed a legal complaint against Nurdoğan Rigel, a prominent academic at Istanbul University's Faculty of Communications, claiming she deliberately gave him low grades. The plaintiff said his exam paper deserved a grade between 65 and 72, but Rigel instead gave him a grade of 35 and asked the court to review the exam paper. The court sided with Porgham Rezaeieh and ruled for an upgrade of the grade and charged Rigel of abusing her duty as an academic. Prosecutors asked for a prison term of up to two years for the professor.
Jurists have mixed feelings about the verdict that may set a precedent for similar cases. Unfair grading by some university lecturers is often mentioned by university students who fail exams, though no such case has been brought before the courts. Speaking to Demirören News Agency (DHA), Orkun Burak Uğurlu, a member of the Istanbul Bar Association, says the verdict definitely was a landmark as it would allow more students to come forward with complaints about unfair grading. "Students used to complain about grades they thought were unfair but have been afraid of filing a complaint, fearing that lecturers would hand down lower grades if they file complaints. After this verdict, they won't fear coming forward, and they now know that you have a right to object to grades you believe are unfair," he said. But he also warned that there should be a more detailed investigation about the intent of an academic handing low grades deliberately. "In terms of administrative law, the verdict is appropriate, but it is lacking in terms of criminal law. Any suspicion of a deliberate act and its underlying motives should be investigated," he said.
Lawyer Abdullah Onur Eyüboğlu said it was "a very hefty sentence" for such a crime. "[Rigel's] courses [on News Analysis] for which she was sentenced is a course based on interpretation of exam papers rather than a direct assessment of something concrete, like a mathematics course. Just like judges interpret the law, lecturers can interpret the exam papers differently," he said. He noted that the verdict could also lead to lecturers avoiding giving low grades to students.