Sunday, January 30, 2011

What to do?

Our computer system will let students enroll in classes without any signatures or special permission (unless they need those for another reason) up to a certain point, say into the second week.

In my role as a minor cheese, I got an email about a colleague's advisee this weekend, asking my advice about this:

The student added a course on the computer at the end of the first week, when the computer allowed it. The student then emailed the instructor, explaining the late enrollment and asking for a copy of the syllabus so that the student could work on catching up, having missed the first week of the class.

And the instructor emailed back saying that the student couldn't take the course because s/he'd missed the first week.

What to do?

I understand the instructor's irritation about the late enrollment. Yes, it probably means an extra bit of work to catch the student up on things, but most of our students can be told to get notes from someone else and then visit during an office hour to clarify any confusion. And most of our students are quite capable of doing that. Personally, I don't think it's a huge imposition on an instructor. But I understand that it is some extra work.

But the student is enrolled. The computer put him/her in there. And my understanding is that we pretty much teach anyone who enrolls (barring some special safety situation).

But, if this instructor is pushed to take on the student, the instructor is quite capable of being, well, harsh and nasty.

This is one of those situations that makes me really glad I don't have responsibility for this instructor's behavior, because I'd really be frustrated. But this instructor is also quite senior, and capable of being as harsh and nasty to a junior colleague as to a student. I don't like feeling that way about colleagues, and I don't about most, but there it is.

What to do?


  1. I empathize with the dilemma.

    Our computer registration system allows students to add until the end of the second week of classes. However, instructors can request that their courses be taken offline, which means that students must get the instructor's permission to add. If your registrar will let you do that, you might suggest to the instructor in question that he or she do that in the future. Put the ball in his or her court, as it were.

    At present, though, I'd be inclined to support the student. Either your policies allow instructors to stop registration early, in which case the onus is on the instructor to do so, or they don't, in which case the onus is on the instructor to suck it up. Personally, I usually allow students to add during the entire add/drop period, but I make it clear that it's their responsibility, not mine, to make up the material that they missed.

  2. I'd pass it up the food chain (to the dean? associate dean?) if at all possible.

    In my university, they don't care how senior you are, they tell you if the class isn't capped and drop/add is running, the student's enrolled: deal with it!

    Of course, it might be useful to say to student "Look, Prof. X will not react well to pushing the point, even though you're in your rights. Could we swap you into another course?"

    This is where pushing it up the food chain might also be necessary, I'm afraid, since I bet your system won't allow the student to switch courses at this point.

  3. Anonymous7:49 PM

    I vote with pushing it up the food chain as well. I know that I count every absence equally, if it happens before the student entered the class or not. Maybe that needs to be prof X's policy... I also tell the student that it's their responsibility to download the syllabus, get caught up and if they've missed any quizzes in the first week, they can't be made up. Often the student decides to go elsewhere.... hmmm... I wonder why :)?

  4. I had a student wanting to add my 3-week (one meeting per week) class after missing the first week, and I said no. The student went to the dean and a couple of other people to try to persuade me to let him in. The administration put some pressure on me, but I still said no. Missing one out of three classes is different from missing a week out of fifteen, though.

    I have to say, I get irritated with students who do this drop/add dance in the first couple of weeks of school, regardless of the circumstances. And frankly, if I were a student, I wouldn't want to waltz into a class where the teacher already had a chip on her shoulder against me because of a perceived lack of forethought on the student's part in scheduling courses for the semester. See, I'm prejudiced against students like that -- sad but true. With all the pre-registration and registration opportunities, it seems to me that there are ample opportunities to get your schedule straightened out. If you haven't done so by the first day, then you appear to be lazy, moronic, or in crisis. The "in-crisis" person, at least, could have a valid excuse, but the others? No sympathy here.

    You also use the word "instructor" for this teacher. If that person is an adjunct, he/she is probably thinking that he/she doesn't want to take on one more student for the same slender paycheck. I can hardly blame that person, and, in fact, probably AM that person, metaphorically speaking. This isn't to say that full-timers have it any better on that front. You get the same pay no matter how many students you have. But if you're an adjunct and trying to cobble together a living by teaching up to five classes a semester just to make ends meet... well... who really wants one more student?

  5. This cracks me up. At Berkeley, no one would have had any idea whether someone was enrolled or not, present or not, or anything else. Maybe it's different in grad level classes. But if the kid is going to fill in the week, what difference does it make?