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Problem with professor.

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I recently finished my first semester as a grad student. In the three courses I took I received reasonable grades in two: A and B+. The third class (bioethics) the professor gave me an incomplete. At first I was not worried due to the fact that it was the first time I had tried to write a professional level paper and I admit that it was not there. However, after she sent me the paper back with her comments I realized that there were places where she seems to take the paper personally.

I am disabled and decided to take on some of the ideas of Peter Singer concerning the disabled, for those versed in disabled studies you will understand why. Unfortunately, she is an ardent Singer apologist and refuses to acknowledge any of his work that I have cited or the work of others that cite him. She was rather aggressive in the comments and even dismissive of the arguments I make…I know that this is not at all uncommon and feel kind of silly for not sidestepping the whole thing by choosing a different topic once I realized what type of professor she was.

She has a tendency to push her point of view for example: she set up mock trails and group discussions during the semester and on more than one occasion brow beat the students until they accepted her point of view which is quite frankly Ableist. I don’t think she has a malicious intent however she is just mistaken. 

I don’t blame her as much as I blame myself for not avoiding this.

So, as I stated she has given me an incomplete and after reading her comments I do not think I can write a paper she will accept without complete acquiescence.

So I have suggested that I drop the topic completely and start fresh with something else.

Are there any thoughts? 

Edited by popscull
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Do you have a Student Disability Services office? It might be worth a call to them to see if they can moderate a discussion. I would also speak with your adviser. I think changing topics should be an absolute last resort. 

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I would also recommend speaking to a neutral third party in a higher position (advising dean) or separate office (disability services as mentioned above) before taking any action with the professor on this. Speaking up could also help future students of this professor.

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You can do what's easy, or you can do what's right. Those don't necessarily match.


From what you describe, it sounds like this professor is overstepping her authority You should be able to argue something she disagrees with and still get a grade based on the quality of the work. If you want to pursue getting the work you've already done graded fairly, I'd look into resources on campus that can help with that - that can be the disability office, the ombudsperson, or perhaps the DGS or department head, if you think this can be handled within the department. If you do this, you may get the grade you deserve, but it'll involve at least some unpleasantness. This may help others down the line but there is a possibility that it'll hurt you. Especially if this is a tenured professor, she is there to stay and you are transient. She may get the support of her department just to keep the peace. So it's possible that you'll start a process (or contribute to an ongoing process) of dealing with this professor, but it's also possible that you'll just start a process of putting yourself in an awkward position with your department. You know more about the department's culture and current attitudes toward this professor than us, so you should have at least some idea of how this would turn out. (If I were in this situation I'd probably choose to fight and pursue one of the avenues I listed above, but I say this knowing full well that sometimes it's better to be smart than to be right.) 


If you prefer to just get this over with with as little trouble as possible, then perhaps the easiest thing to do is just say what the professor wants to hear. It sounds like this has worked for people in the past. I am guessing that this would be less work than writing a new paper on a new topic, If you are able to do that. Whatever you choose, you should know it's not ok but it's perhaps the easiest way to get out of a bad situation.  


Either way, a clear and obvious conclusion is to stay away from this professor as much as possible in the future. It's best to avoid any way in which she can affect your career, which probably means avoid having any kind of contact with her whatsoever. I assume this is a foregone conclusion, but it's worth mentioning just in case. 

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