ALLENTOWN, Pa. – A Northampton County, Pa., judge rejected the claims of a Lehigh University student suing over her C+ grade, reaching the verdict following a trial that captured national and international attention.
Judge Emil Giordano decided that the university neither breached contract nor sexually discriminated against Megan Thode, whose lawsuit sought $1.3 million in damages.
Both sides completed their cases Thursday morning in a legal fight pitting a university that maintained it must protect its academic standards against a graduate who says she was deprived of a career by faculty members with a grudge.
Thode, the daughter of Lehigh finance professor Stephen Thode, was attending the Bethlehem university tuition-free in 2009 when she got the C+ in her master’s fieldwork class. She needed a B or higher to take the next course, and her attorney, Richard J. Orloski, argued that his client’s dream of becoming a licensed professional counselor was unfairly scuttled as a result.
Orloski told Giordano during closing arguments that the case was always about correcting an injustice, and not money. He said Thode would be happy if Giordano awarded her $1, while raising her grade to a B.
Neil Hamburg, an attorney for Lehigh, told Giordano that the courts have long deferred to academic institutions to determine what grades they should award.
Hamburg said Thode earned her C+ by showing an inability to self-reflect and take and respond to criticism, an inability he argued that she demonstrated by pursuing the litigation.