Sunday, November 15, 2020

Feeling the No Power Position

 Let's imagine, for a moment, I've received a letter of complaint from some students about a colleague.  The students meet with me, and say that their instructor didn't give them a syllabus for the class until after the fourth week of classes, and they spent the first four weeks of classes doing "introductions" to "get to know each other."  

They also note that the instructor's a really nice person, very kind and supportive.

The instructor's supposed to be teaching reed management, but spends most every class session on reed dying, though the big project is on reed management, which (they say), they aren't spending much time on in class, even though it's a really complex subject.

That big project is coming due, and they've asked for help, but didn't get it.

They asked me specifically not to talk to the instructor until after the semester ends, and not to use their names.

And did I mention, the instructor's a full professor?

As a chair, and especially a new chair, I really don't know what to do.  I think an email to the Dean is in order.



  1. Talk to the professor first!

    1. The students specifically asked me not to talk to him until after the semester's over.

    2. I would have pushed back on this-- what do they expect to happen? By the end of the semester it will be too late for the professor to make any changes that will affect them. Ideally *they* would talk to the professor. Definitely do not talk to the dean in any specifics about any specific professor until you have had a chance to talk to the professor himself.

      Students often miss or misinterpret things, or sometimes professors have their own personal emergencies. You cannot go up the chain until you have investigated what is going on.

      And I say this knowing full well that I have a colleague who drops the ball and I have to pick it up, but you cannot just take the word of two students and then escalate behind the professor's back.

    3. Thanks. You're correct.

      The students said they've talked to the professor and not gotten help. They don't expect anything to change this semester, but said they hope things will change in future.

  2. If in your school student evaluations are available to administrators, I suggest seeing if there have been similar complaints in recent semesters. This could be a long standing problem.

  3. Yes, I'll be looking at those and talking to the previous chair.