The Chronicle’s View: Charity Donations Fail Academic Test

Encouraging students to donate to charities is commendable, but economics Professor Anne Yeagle has gone too far.

Yeagle promised extra credit to students in one of her classes for donating money to the Carolina for Kibera Project, an organization that works to improve life in the slums of Kenya. Yeagle told students they could give up to $100, a sum that, at $10 a point, could be enough to raise a student’s final grade a full letter.

Yeagle said she only wanted to help students handle the often harsh realities of economics, such as the suffering of the desperately poor in Kenya. By donating money, students could help improve life in the country.

Unfortunately, though Yeagle’s intentions were noble, she has essentially allowed students to buy grades in her summer classes. Rather than teaching students the importance of charity work, the practice only shows that money is more important than academics.

During her Fall and Spring Semester classes, Yeagle invites students to volunteer locally for extra credit. In those classes the experience of active service complements the class material. But when students in summer courses are asked simply to donate money, they gain little personal or academic enrichment.

Grades should reflect academic performance and the material students learn in courses. Donating money, however, only reflects a student’s financial well-being, and some students can’t even afford textbooks, let alone extra credit points.

The U does not currently have a written policy that handles situations like Yeagle’s, but one is desperately needed to prevent similar incidents in the future. Yeagle wants to make good on her word and award students the extra credit for their donations, but the U should not allow that to happen. The students who have already collected money should donate it, but should do so without grade benefits.

In one of Yeagle’s classes, students are still donating money, but refusing the extra credit. They deserve to be lauded for standing up for a principle while sacrificing an improved grade. The lesson those students are teaching others in Yeagle’s courses is the one she should have encouraged in the first place.