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Unfairness and dishonesty among faculty and administration. What do I do here?


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I will try my best to condense a long story. There will be no cliff notes FYI to give you fair warning.

I am in a doctoral program in a class with 9 students. Last year, we ran into a professor who wreaked havoc on us. The course was very difficult, not due to content, but to unfair treatment. She had clear favorites as evidenced by identical answers on exams graded completely different. After one particular exam where the majority of the class had failing grades, she demanded that each of those people who made below 60% stay after and 'discuss' a plan of action with her, blatantly violating grade confidentiality in the process. Luckily, I was not one of these people, but that's where it all went downhill. A closed door meeting was organized with the director the program, who subsequently spoke to the professor. She snidely alluded to it during our next session and began to grade even more erratically, refused to respond to emails, and openly chided our class to her colleagues. I survived the course and had the privilege of drawing her as my preceptor for my next clinical rotation. It was a nightmare experience that I suffered through with my mouth shut. I simply wanted to survive and not do anything brash to damage my standing in the program.

The one memory I will address regarding this clinical experience was when she and her colleague (who was also an adjunct professor with a potential personality disorder and despise of our class) clicked open their evaluations that students fill out on professors at midterm and at the end of the semester. These evaluations are strictly confidential. Well, the two psychos proceeded to read off the evaluations to each other, taking turns guessing which student wrote which. Right while I was sitting in the room with them. They later mentioned specific eval comments to their other classes, against guessing who wrote one.

Fast foreword a year later and we have her for another class. Like clockwork, the entire class with the exception of one made D's/F's. The test consisted of writing out what obscure acronyms stood for, who the author of a quote was on the 3rd paragraph of your textbook on pg. 87, and vague scenarios asking for detailed responses. She is 10-15 minutes late to each class (it's a night class), looks largely disinterested, and reads straight out of the book during lecture. Test grades were returned two weeks after they taken. I have started to record lectures for evidence. It is inherently obvious to me that she is carrying out ill-will and revenge against my cohort.

Another closed door meeting recently ocurred with the director, who appeared concerned and willing to help. A follow-up meeting was scheduled a week later after a period of evaluation. The result was a frustrating display of apathy and dishonesty. The director claimed that grade grievances took too long and the process would be futile. He claimed that no actions could be taken against the professor because we did not rate her low enough on evals (claiming there was no rating lower than a 4 out of a 1-5 scale) and that nobody left any comments. I'm glad I wasn't there, because I likely would have went ballistic. Recall my story about seeing the very evals he alluded to. I saw them with my own two eyes. He's a bold-faced liar.

I would have been fine with this had I our director just openly stated that he had no intention of doing anything about the situation rather than going the spineless coward route and lie. I have been less bothered by this entire situation for the past year than any of my classmates until this point. My tolerance for having legitimate concerns swept under the rug with dishonesty is next to nothing. On top of that, he claimed to have never even met the professor. Are you kidding me? You're the head of the damn program. I'm literally fuming at this point. Our program is routinely associated with the cellar dwellars in US rankings. I can certainly see why now.

We have the option to request a hearing, which will ultimately be denied after the director and his buddies have clearly demonstrated that they would avoid a mess than stand up for their students. I'm wondering what the next step is. I'm savvy enough with social media to the point where I could spread my story around (after graduating of course). While I pride myself in standing on principle, alienating myself in an already small profession may not be the best route. I have considering going to our national governing body and presenting the facts in hopes that accreditation for the program will be removed (as it should). There are countless head-scratcher incidents through the past 3 years that would take a full 2 days to detail. At this point, I've had just about enough of it.

What are your thoughts? Or suggested plan of action?

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While I pride myself in standing on principle[.]

Have you, in a face to face conversation with the director, used the exact same words to describe his character and his conduct that you use in your narrative?
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Bluntly, I think that you need to take a look at your attitude and how it may impact the outcome of this process.

You are going to be discussing a very complicated and controversial issue with people who have power over you. I think it is in your best interest to take your emotions out of the equation. Among the emotions to control are your feelings of victimization, self-righteousness, and anger. It does not matter if you and your cohort are in the right and they are in the wrong. If you communicate with the tone you display in the OP you will not prevail.

If you decide to continue with this process,

  • Identify the issues you want to address.
  • Figure out the outcomes you'd prefer.
  • Figure out the outcomes that are possible.
  • And then figure out what you can do to close the gap between what you want and what you can get.
    • That is, manage your expectations. You may want heads on a platter but what may happen is that students will get nothing more than an opportunity to retake the class.

Do not say anything about the individuals you're dealing with either on line or to anyone else that you're not willing to say it directly to those people. If you need to vent, and I suggest you don't, do it with pen and pencil or in an encrypted file. Right now, your emotions are getting the better of you. If you have a talk with people higher up in the food chain with the tone you used in the OP, you are going to undermine your chances for a sustainable resolution to your issue. Do not, under any circumstances, make anything that sounds like a threat, especially if you do not have the power to carry out that threat. If you're set on tearing the temple down, then do it. But do not talk about it. (Make no mistake, I think that this would be an incredibly self destructive act on your part.)

Concurrently, please do take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. Bluntly, some of what you say you did does not track with who you say you are. You need to figure out these inconsistences before you go into a meeting and say/do something that undermines your credibility and forfeits the high ground. For example, somewhere along the line, you made some pragmatic decisions. But now you're talking about principle. What prompted the transition?

And there are other questions you might consider. Why are you fighting this fight? (It is unclear if you got a poor mark in the second class.) Who are you trying to help? Did they ask you? Are you helping them the way they've asked you? Or are you imposing your solutions on their problems and thereby complicating an already difficult situation? Whose interests and what priorities are driving you right now? Do you want a sustainable solution or do you want revenge? What are you going to do if you can't get either?)

I understand that some of my comments may not be what you expected. You strike me as someone who has what I call a "crusader's mentality." IMO, that isn't such a bad trait to have. However, I urge you to understand the differences between giants and windmills before you grab a lance and charge down the hill. And also understand that being angry can get in the way of being effective. (FWIW, as a hot head, I often say to myself: [sigaba], do you want to be mad or do you want to get the problem solved--because you cannot do both? When I decide to get the problem solved, things tend to turn out a lot better for me.)

HTH.

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Underneath your attempt at psychoanalysis was some good advice. I did not want to go in with guns blazing (emotion), hense the reason I have kept quiet up until this point and posted for advice on how to take action without negatively impacting my future. The adjunct professor abruptly "resigned" after a meeting with faculty. She had sent out an email at noon stating that she would be emailing a lecture outline that afternoon. Two hours later, we were informed by the director that the class would be meeting in a different location that evening and he would be presiding over the class. He announced to the class that she had resigned for reasons he would not be disclosing. He went on a five minute rant about how we are not to talk about this outside of the class and if it were made known that we had, he would "come after us" and make our lives a "living hell" among other strong words. I recorded the threats in case I need it in the future for whatever reason.

I'm curious as to what made faculty change their tone so quickly and force action. It was not even two days before that they had intended their intent to do nothing. I certainly didn't do anything outside of what I said in the original post. My classmates had not either as far as i know. Needless to say, I am relieved for obvious reasons.

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Underneath your attempt at psychoanalysis was some good advice.

Zyzz--

There was no attempt on my part at "psychoanalysis." I did not ask any questions about your personal life, your interpersonal matrix, your relationships with your parents, your gender, your socio-economic class, or any other diagnostic question unrelated to the information you provided. (The point here is that before using a term, maybe you should know what that term entails. Or, at least, use the search button to get a better sense of those with whom you're communicating.)

On the contrary, in my reading of your OP I did you the courtesy of assuming that you are articulate enough to say what you mean. If you're going to get snide because you don't like it when people pick up what you put down, then maybe you shouldn't come to an internet BB and expect people to agree with you because you are neither wise nor introspective enough to figure out ways to solve your issue.

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Thank you for clarifying semantics. I now see the err of my ways. Your ability to focus on the big picture of a topic and not miss the point is unrivaled. You have definitely contributed to this conversation. Unfortunately, I fear that your vast intellect is intimidating other posters, deterring them from contributing as well. Therefore, I kindly request that you refrain from further posting in this thread. It is important that others feel encouraged to participate, even those without your superior abilities.

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Strong reading comprehension. The teacher in question was removed and I have already acquired recorded evidence of the director's threats. I should have known to ask for serious advice from a forum full of psuedointellectuals. Perhaps my naivety is the problem.

Edited by Zyzz
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After one particular exam where the majority of the class had failing grades, she demanded that each of those people who made below 60% stay after and 'discuss' a plan of action with her, blatantly violating grade confidentiality in the process.

This no more violates grade confidentiality than posting summary statistics about a classes performance on an exam.

As for the seeming uneven grading - is this a quantitative course where a "right" answer is right no matter how you sell it? Because if not, unless your answer is word for word the same as these others theres really no way for you to say "Oh well we should get the exact same grade."

I think the advice you've gotten is solid. Your last paragraph threatening the school's name over the behavior of ONE instructor (no I dont count the director in this whose job it is is to manage situations like this) shows your maturity level (or lack thereof). If you feel personally or professionally theatened by your directors comments after the resignation of your instructor, take it up with him or the dean of the college; however, from your comments in this thread he has reason to be wary of overzealous students flying off half-cocked because they believe they have been unjustly slighted.

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Strong reading comprehension. The teacher in question was removed and I have already acquired recorded evidence of the director's threats. I should have known to ask for serious advice from a forum full of psuedointellectuals. Perhaps my naivety is the problem.

I will refrain from pointing out the hilarity of calling a community of graduate and post-graduate students in every field imaginable "pseudo-intellectuals". I will also refrain from pointing out the fact that while attempting to demean the intellect of these students, you managed to misspell "pseudo". I will refrain. I will!

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I think the advice you've gotten is solid. Your last paragraph threatening the school's name over the behavior of ONE instructor (no I dont count the director in this whose job it is is to manage situations like this) shows your maturity level (or lack thereof). If you feel personally or professionally theatened by your directors comments after the resignation of your instructor, take it up with him or the dean of the college; however, from your comments in this thread he has reason to be wary of overzealous students flying off half-cocked because they believe they have been unjustly slighted.

So, this thread has gotten way overheated and far too snide, but ANDS! and the rest of the posters are right about the threat of trying to get the program's accreditation pulled. Additionally, even if you were able to succeed in doing that, think about how negatively that would affect the other students in the program, and the program's grads. You would effectively be invalidating their hard work over a few people's bad behavior.

A suggestion is to go to your university's ombudsperson and arrange some kind of mediation, since you are unsatisfied with the way this has been handled internally, but obviously it is possible that this will have repercussions too (as you say, academia is small). Is transferring an option or are you too far into the program?

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I disagree with most of the posters here. I think Zyzz did come here asking for help with handling the situation, and some posters here have made assumptions that he/she is planning to go off half-cocked, leading to an unnecessarily snide back-and-forth.

Zyzz-

1. I think it's good that you have documented all of these interactions. At the very least, you have proof of any misconduct by the program if it actually occurred.

2. Clearly, something was going on in that class. As a former engineer, I know what it is like to take classes that either have a right or wrong answer, and I've never been in a class where the majority of people got D's and F's. These types of classes are typically curved, so I don't see how such terrible grades would occur. In addition, I think that if so many people are doing so poorly in the class, then that speaks more to the ability of the teacher rather than the class.

3. I don't think that you should jump so quickly to attacking a school's accreditation, but it should remain an option down the line. I think too many people let bad behavior go unpunished out of fear because "academia is a small place". If there is sufficient misconduct, a school or program shouldn't have the ability to take on students. And while that might affect current students, it will also warn prospective students from getting themselves into a bad situation. Bottom line is, people shouldn't let themselves get bullied for the sake of academia when there are measures in place to assist students in the balance of power.

4. That said, take care to explore all administrative mediation at the school BEFORE taking such drastic measures. Speak to the head of the graduate school and if that doesn't work, then the dean of the school.

5. Although this isn't the most preferable option, if the situation continues to deteriorate, then consider leaving the program with just a masters and joining a doctoral program elsewhere.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I will refrain from pointing out the hilarity of calling a community of graduate and post-graduate students in every field imaginable "pseudo-intellectuals". I will also refrain from pointing out the fact that while attempting to demean the intellect of these students, you managed to misspell "pseudo". I will refrain. I will!

I'm going to have to acknowledge this post. I would definitely have to consider ridiculing a poster who made a goof up like the above. Fair points from others as well. I'd like to thank JSmoove for his post. The professor in question was removed, NOT by any action I took because aside from anything mentioned in the OP, I took no actions. It more or less felt good to put it out in the open, albeit anonymously, on an online forum. As for the recorded threats, I have no intention of bring them forward to anybody. It is simply to protect myself should the program go rogue in the future against a prior student, something that has happened in the past. Thank you all for your comments and my apologies for the snide comments.

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