Trials & Litigation

Lehigh grad loses $1.3M lawsuit against alma mater over C+ grade


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Updated: A Pennsylvania judge was clearly not happy about his role in a Lehigh University graduate’s $1.3 million suit over a C+ grade in a fieldwork class for her master’s degree in counseling.

He questioned whether he even had the equitable power to order the university to award the B grade plaintiff Megan Thode needed to continue in the program, Northampton County Judge Emil Giordano said during trial Wednesday that he is “unconvinced that the judiciary should be injecting itself in the academic process,” the Allentown Morning Call reported.

The judge initially suggested that the parties should settle by allowing Thode to retake the course, but at least one of the two parties rejected that idea.

Ultimately, Giordano ruled against Thode in the case, the Morning Call reported late Thursday. Giordano said that Thode failed to show that her grade was based on anything other than “purely academic evaluation” and her instructor’s conclusion that she “was unprepared to move on to the next level” of her course.

“We feel very badly for Megan Thode,” Lehigh’s College of Education dean Gary Sasso told the Morning Call after the ruling. “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.”

Thode, who is represented by attorney Richard J. Orloski, got a master’s degree in a related field from Lehigh, but says her employment prospects were adversely affected. She asserted claims for breach of contract and gender discrimination. After the ruling, Orloski told the Morning Call that he was disappointed in the result but that he doubted his client would pursue an appeal.

Nicholas Ladany, who served as director of the counseling degree program when Thode was a student, said he gave her a C+ because she was unwilling to listen and lacked self-reflection, skills which are critical in a licensed counselor.

Updated Feb. 15 to include a report of the judge’s ruling in the case.

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