2 Former Cheyney Employees Charged With Fixing Grades

Posted: January 06, 1988

Two former computer center employees at Cheyney University were arrested yesterday and charged with illegally changing dozens of student grades either for money or as favors.

The workers, Joseph J. Johnson, 26, of Crosby Street, Chester, and David L. Granacher, 34, of Ridge Avenue, Phoenixville, were each charged by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office with 14 counts of unlawful use of a computer, 14 counts of forgery, 10 counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy. They were arraigned before District Justice Leon Mascaro of Concordville.

Johnson, a computer technician described by prosecutors as the originator of the alleged scheme, was committed to Delaware County Prison after failing to post $10,000 bail. Granacher, a computer department manager who prosecutors said routinely fixed grades for free and even gave himself a grade in a course he never took, was released on his own recognizance.

Robert Gentzel, a spokesman for state Attorney General LeRoy S. Zimmerman, said Johnson altered 21 grades for nine students and collected $1,075, or an

average of about $50 per grade change. Typically, an "A" grade drew a higher premium, Gentzel said. In one instance, he said, Johnson offered to change the grade of a female student in exchange for sex but was turned down.

Granacher was accused of altering 26 grades for four students. For two of those students, Gentzel said, Granacher changed 22 grades as a favor.

According to the criminal complaint, both men were charged with identical counts because they "conspired with each other and with numerous Cheyney students."

In a prepared statement, Zimmerman credited Cheyney officials for providing ''full cooperation in our investigation" and said they "in fact came to us with the information that triggered our probe." He said no students would be prosecuted.

"We are satisfied that university action rather than criminal prosecution represents the best means of dealing with the students," the statement said.

Cheyney President LeVerne McCummings said Granacher and Johnson were both suspended without pay when the scandal first surfaced in late September and that both were fired when their activities became apparent early in the investigation. It was not immediately known how long either had worked at the school.

Typically, failing students and those with poor grades were involved, McCummings said, and Johnson and Granacher became known to those students through word of mouth.

McCummings said the scandal came to light when Vernon Clark, Cheyney's vice president for academic affairs, stumbled across a student's computerized file in which a grade in one course was different from the grade in the teacher's written report.

Under the school's procedures, a teacher must sign a grade-change card and file the card along with the student's written record.

Shortly after Clark's discovery, McCummings said, an administrator received an anonymous call that grade-fixing was going on.

McCummings called a campuswide meeting in early October and encouraged students who knew about grade fixing to come forward. The 13 students involved in the charges against Johnson and Granacher volunteered information to investigators. McCummings said the 13 would not be expelled from school, but would have their grades rescinded and must take the courses again.

McCummings and Gentzel both said that numerous other students might have been involved with the grade fixing.

"Every indication is that it has happened in the past," Gentzel said. ''We halted our investigation when we felt we had sufficient evidence against both men to convict them."

Said McCummings, "We got wind of it this (fall) semester, though there are rumors that it has been going on for a while. And I believe it has, although the majority of our students had no inkling of it." Cheyney has about 1,600 students.

McCummings said the university was continuing its own investigation and that any other students implicated would be expelled for not having come forward earlier.

"We will run a check on every person preparing to graduate, and that, I'm sure, will result in some expulsions in the future," McCummings said. "Also, beginning with this freshman class, all grades will be checked yearly."

The university also has limited the access to the computers used for storing grades to one vice president.

At a time when Cheyney has been severely hampered by fiscal cutbacks, faculty layoffs, academic instability, declining enrollment and lingering budget deficits, McCummings said he nonetheless was glad that the grade-fixing scandal - although an embarrassment - had been exposed.

"We are happy to have it out in the open and behind us," he said.

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