In response to Harvard University’s academic policies, the American Automobile Association issued a lawsuit claiming that the school’s grading infringed on its trademark initials. The motor-club federation alleged that the “triple-A” grading given to an estimated 78% of students damaged its branding and left AAA members confused.
“Our organization has a rich history of safety and reliability on the road,” said Ophelia Dayton, Deputy Chair of the Connecticut AAA Board. “It’s untenable that we lose this tradition to a few thousand students in Cambridge who think they’re too good for just an AA+ or A+++.”
The university came under fire after announcing its change last December from its previous grading system, where students would receive anywhere from a 3.0 GPA to a 4.0 GPA, depending on whether they make eye contact with their teaching fellows, whether they turn in assignments more than once, and whether they ever set foot on campus, said Rakesh Khurana, Dean of Harvard College.
“The new system was adopted because the 3.0 GPA frequently caused classroom disruption, as many higher-level math students would ask what the ‘funny hat on top of the nine meant,’” said Khurana.
This system was preferable to the American Automobile Association, said Cox, because it did not infringe on the brand of the association. Nor did it make the motor-club’s name synonymous with deteriorating academic standards, entitlement and childish grade-grubbing, Cox added.
Three cease-and-desist notices were sent since December, said Clinton Chamberlain-Wallace, a partner at Chamberlain-Wallace & Grommet LLC, the firm representing AAA. The university’s response, he said, was sent late and primarily in crayon, he said, and alleged that Chamberlain-Wallace was comprised of glue, while the university was comprised of rubber.
Reception of the new grading system has been mixed. Jason Anderson, a Harvard lecturer in political science was unsure of his role in the classroom given the change.
“I don’t know what they expect of me. I was told to spend the first third of class complimenting the students who show up, and then let them out early after an extra credit ceremony. When do I lecture?”
Students, however, are more optimistic about the program, despite the potential payout to the American Automobile Association. In a poll sent to the entire student body, the one respondent mentioned that the grade would reduce competition and sabotage between students. Last fall, an estimated 30% of Harvard juniors were impersonated by other students for grade-sabotaging purposes. Under the new program, preliminary reports from the university’s security office suggest that the sabotage has dropped by nearly one percent.
The university is expected to release an official statement on the lawsuit by mid-December. The $750 million lawsuit is the second-costliest suit the university has faced this year, after the $35 billion class-action lawsuit by the citizens of the United States for producing so many inept leaders.