While there is some controversy over the matter, the fact that college grades have been inflated for various reasons over the last few decades is widely recognized (Memory). Moreover, once there is a general lowering of academic standards, additional pressure is put on those who wish to maintain higher standards (Professional Excellence).
However, professors are human and subject to the temptation to give higher grades to students they like and respect, and lower grades to those whom they like and respect less. It stands to reason that a system of academic evaluation can only be meaningful if there is an attempt to maintain standards (Integrity) at least within an institution, by employing roughly the same standards for all students (Fairness), so that academic records mean something (Justice). Grading is a way of giving students an honest evaluation of the quality of their work, so that they know whether they are doing good work or need to improve. It does them a disservice if they are misled into thinking that they are doing good work when they aren’t (Truthfulness).
Grades are also a considerable incentive to many students who want to do well, and will work harder and learn more if they need to do so to get a better grade. Justice demands giving students their due grade; the one they earned by their work. If professors were to take into consideration extraneous factors apart from the actual quality of their work (and such factors are endless), grades would become meaningless (Hope).
Additionally, attempts to factor in extraneous factors would certainly create issues of Fairness. How could a professor know and accurately weigh such factors for all the students? It is very good that professors empathize with their students’ difficulties, and this is especially understandable when those difficulties are beyond the control of the students (Friendship). But the empathy cannot take the form of giving dishonest (because they are untruthful) grades (Fortitude, Good Deliberation), which undermine the Integrity of the system of academic evaluation in general (Avoiding Scandal). It should rather take the form of assisting students so that they can do the quality work they need to do in order to get good grades.
The facts of this situation are unclear. It is rare for a bright a student to go down to a low C simply because of work schedule issues (especially since he has been working in the past, too). Are there other problems involved here? If it is just work, perhaps his work schedule has increased so much as to make it impossible to do the necessary work for all his classes. It is probably imprudent to take the number of classes he is currently taking. It’s a question of learning, after all, not just of grades.
Special Circumstances to Consider:
If the professor had an official policy with all the students to help them improve their grades by means of special assignments.
Read Fulvio Di Blasi’s full bio here.