On Academia SE, there is a proposal to create a tag covering leniency and penalties towards students, where leniency is about not applying penalties or giving exceptional allowances or a bonus to a student due to mitigating circumstances or similar. Since is pretty clumsy for a tag name, I am wondering whether there exists a better term covering both cases.

Given that in these context, penalty (or malus) is an antonym of the result of leniency (or bonus), it seems plausible to me that such a term exists. It feels as if it the term on the tip of my tongue (though I might be wrong about this or it may be in another language).

Indeed, the word handicap as used in sports and similar¹ fits these requirements, but this is usually not applied the intended context nor is it suited as a tag name, as it is also a synonym of disability, which is another, distinct tag.

Therefore I am asking for another umbrella term that generalises penalty, malus, allowance, bonus, and so on.

¹ “An allowance […], granted in a race (or other contest of skill) to the competitor possessing disadvantages; or an additional […] hindrance imposed upon the one possessing advantages, in order to equalize, as much as possible, the chances of success.” (Wiktionary)

  • My college uses "accommodation" for changes made for students with disabilities, but it could apply to any sort of special circumstances.
    – vpn
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 18:45
  • See Wikipedia on Social Control for some terms of social-scientific art pertaining to what the various questions listed in the linked meta post seem to me to have in common. Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 19:26
  • @BrianDonovan: If I understand correctly, social control seems far broader than what I am looking for. So, while it takes the desired terms under its umbrella, it also includes a lot of other terms or concepts.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 20:41
  • 1
    When I talk in Spanish about my son's 504 accommodations, I say, "ajustes," or adjustments. However, I think you are looking for something broader. After all, penalties would not be included in adjustments. I suspect that you are trying to talk about things like grading policies, but I guess you need something a bit broader still, since you said you're not only talking about grades.... It's not clear to me how much the term you're seeking aligns with 504 accommodations. Bottom line, help us help you: Please give an explicit list of things that would be included in your term... Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 3:26
  • 1
    ...and things that would not. Good question, but needs more work to be able to try to answer it. Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 3:26

2 Answers 2


Why not use terms used by educators when grading, like 'adjustment' or 'curve'?

Adjustment (MW, definition 5)

a correction or modification to reflect actual conditions

Curve (MW, noun definition 4)

a distribution indicating the relative performance of individuals measured against each other that is used especially in assigning good, medium, or poor grades to usually predetermined proportions of students rather than in assigning grades based on predetermined standards of achievement

For actual tag names, you could use 'grade-adjustment' or 'grade-on-a-curve'.

  • Thank you for your answer, but note that this is not necessarily about grades. It could also be about extra time given on an exam or allowing homework that was turned in late. Nonetheless, adjustment is not a bad suggestion.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 17:27
  • Adjustment is a good one (+1). Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 17:33

Almost everything on the list in the referenced Academia Meta question seems to be related to grading policies -- grading of homework, grading of projects, grading of quizzes, grading of exams. So I will propose:

grading-policy or grading-policies

Maybe some would say that adjusting an exam or quiz date would not fall under that umbrella -- but I personally think it does, indirectly.

Academia SE already has tags for "grades" and "grading." I confess I don't understand the difference. I'm guessing neither one covers what you want, because otherwise you wouldn't be asking!

There is already a tag for "policy," but policy could refer to policies about encouraging and supporting diversity, sexual harassment, sexual conduct between a student and a teaching assistant, plagiarism, lab safety, leave of absence, etc., etc. (I have not looked at the questions that have been tagged with "policy" -- I will.)

Your question here also made mention of the concepts of handicap and adjustment. I can see that these concepts might sometimes overlap orthogonally with a grading-policy tag, since various disabilities might call for adjustments to be made that could result in exceptions being made to a particular grading policy. In the United States, at least, there is already a word for academic adjustments which are made due to a student's disability: accommodations or reasonable accommodations.

There is a whole legal framework in the U.S. for providing academic accommodations for a student with a disability, through a legally binding document called a "Section 504 Accommodation Plan," or "504 Plan," for short. This legal framework applies to both grade school and higher education (although of course there are some nuances). Here are some examples of adjustments that one might see in a 504 plan:

  • hand in assignments later than the official due date

  • take exams in a separate location

  • use proportionally more time for exams

  • take a 10-minute movement break every 40 minutes during an exam

  • have access to a portable word processor for writing exams (there might be qualifications to this, such as, turn off the spell checker, turn off the grammar checker, be disconnected from the internet)

  • large type format

Note that although the 504 plan is a legally binding document, it is not (normally, at least!) drawn up by lawyers or judges. (Also note that one could also, in principle, speak of "504 accommodations" in the workplace, or in health care.)

Careful documentation must be submitted to the university for a student to establish 504 eligibility, and for specific accommodations to be included in the student's 504 plan. The federal government (I'm still talking about the U.S. here) has provided the legal framework, but each educational institution must establish its own 504 policy and procedures, within that framework.

The government website doesn't do a great job of providing a concise overview; colleges and universities in the U.S. vary in the amount and extent of explanation they provide on their websites regarding their 504 policy and procedures. Here's a reasonably concise yet informative one from Penn State: http://equity.psu.edu/student-disability-resources/considering-penn-state/reasonable-accommodations

Academia SE has international scope, of course. I have tried to find out what the analogous terminology, legal framework, and customs are in Europe, through questions posed on Academia SE and Law SE, but so far these attempts have gotten me... absolutely NOWHERE. Therefore, I would suggest that Academia SE begin with the following:

academic-accommodations or reasonable-accommodations

Hopefully, over time, this could be given some tag synonyms to incorporate the terminology used in other parts of the world.

I have to be honest, I proposed a tag of this sort a while back -- see https://academia.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2050/need-new-tag-for-504-plan-and-or-504-accommodations; the idea didn't get any traction. I hope that won't prevent you from seriously considering the idea.

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