Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Tale of Really Poor Service

The recent series of postings on faculty and customer service led to a number of comments and phone calls. There were more than enough stories that Stephen King would have found to horrific. And in every case, the reporter of the story requested anonymity. They were concerned they would suffer retaliation from colleagues. Sad to hear. I mean even Ari Fleischer came clean in public.

I will relate one of them from a SUNY college that will remain anonymous. The story came to me from a counselor at the school and was corroborated by the parents of the student.

It seems that classes just started again for Spring semester. An adjunct is teaching an introductory foreign language course there. He announced to the class on the first day that “if you aren’t already pretty fluent in ______ you will not do well in this class.”

"But" protested a student, "this is introduction to ____________ . We took it because we don’t know any _________.”

“Too bad. I’m not wasting my time struggling to teach you introductory stuff. It’s too much work. If you don’t have facility with ___________ already you may want to get out.”

“That’s not fair. I’m paying to learn ____________ and you’re supposed to teach us.”

“Wrong understanding. See, I’m an adjunct and retired from teaching so I do this just to augment my income. And what can they do to me? Fire me? So what. If you don’t already know some ____________ better plan on working extra hard. Now who needs my syllabus?”

A group of students raised their hands including one student who already had obtained a copy through the bookstore. When the teacher saw she had one yet raised her hand, he derided her by saying “Let me try this again. I said Syl- A- Bus.” He broke the word into syllables and said them slowly as if he were talking to a simpleton.

“I see you have a syl-a-bus so may-be you do not need a-nother” again slowly and drawn out. “May-be this course will be toooooooooo touughhhh for you since you do not speak English very well.”

The student who was treated to this derision spoke with her advisor to see how one goes about transferring to another school. The student also surely told anywhere from 6 to 12 other people about this event including his or her parents who told me the tale after I heard from a colleague of the one man attrition machine. Checked the sources so be sure of the validity. I may have a word or two off but from the two reports, it is very close.

This is not a slam against adjuncts at all by the way. I heard from full-time faculty about tenured colleagues as well. The stories reminded me of my first day in grad school when a tenured professor at the University of Massachusetts tossed me out of a history of the novel course because he didn’t want to teach a class larger than 24. You see, I had read some of the novels on the syllabus so I had to go. I stayed at UMAss - Amherst by the way because other students assured me the teacher was an ---hole but most everyone else except------ and ---------- and oh yuh ------------ were good and grad school vacuums anyhow so lower expectations. Those who got profs --- and ---- and ----early on did get the heck out of grad school. Besides, I couldn't be able to afford anywhere else. I am sure that you can recall some similar attrition boosting behavior.

But my grad school colleagues were right. There were some great student oriented teachers, some of whom I have stayed in contact with all these years. And for the most part, grad school was often a long rectal exam but absolutely required as a vocational necessity.

By the way, out of a sense of ethical behavior, I sent a copy of this posting directly to the college president the student plans to leave after this semester so he can investigate. Can’t just let a mumzer like that prof kill the spirit of students.

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