Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Who Are These Professors?

In our corner of the world, my friends are finding out that not all professors have empathy or even a sense of decency.  Most of the profs I interact with have some kind of clue that our students are going through a very difficult time.
  • They may be sick.
  • They may have family who are sick or have already died from this virus.
  • They may have had to move in order to be safe.
  • They may not have the best technology to do all of this zooming
  • They may be highly stressed out because their senior year is coming to a crash and that the job market anyone can recall.
  • They may be stressed because they have to find food and toilet paper without endangering themselves.
  • They may have children of their own who are now with them 24/7.  
That is just a short list--this is a time of great stress and trauma.  So, the reasonable profs I know are giving extensions the way Oprah gives gifts, are telling students they will do no worse than their pre-COVID grade, or are otherwise cutting students breaks.  Why?  Because it is the right and decent thing to do.

But the profs who do this are being told by their students that other professors are not doing the same.  That other professors are holding their line on "standards" and "rigor."  That some university senates have had long debates about whether to go to pass/fail for all classes or as options while easily agreeing to give junior faculty more time on their tenure clock.  The latter is the right thing to do, but why hold our students to higher standards?

I have heard of profs who are requiring students to mail their papers in and to make sure they arrive before the deadline--which means that the deadline is now several days earlier.  Plus this forms many to go to a post office to mail a package (probably hard to get to set someone up in these difficult times).

We always joke that having social skills is not necessary to become a professor, that some of our colleagues have little empathy.  This is not a joke right now.  Most of our students are facing the worst time in their lives--we should not be adding to their stress.

What to do about this?  Well, if you are a prof and you hear that a colleague is being a hardass, talk to that person's chair.  If you are a student, you can tell your campus ombudsman, your dean, or a random prof with a blog.  That last one will name and shame on your behalf.  Because we should be taking care of our students at this time, not insisting that they perform like automatons.  FFS.

And an update from Bill Ayres, my old co-author and super-admin guy:
"tell higher administrators. Email the President and/or the Provost. I can guarantee you that senior administrators everywhere are panicked that their students are all going to abandon their institutions after being treated badly by faculty."

1 comment:

L'il Steve said...

Here's what this overlooks...
During any given semester a non-trivial amount of students are having serious issue-- family members with cancer, serious personal mental or physical health problems, serious relationship issues, etc. I'm actually all for providing sympathy, help, and working with them so they get do their best performance under the circumstances. But the kind of "A for everybody-- standards don't matter now!" take ignores the fact that there's always students out there we need to help and be sympathetic to their situation. Given all the serious issues I regularly hear about from students (because I'm not a hard ass and they trust me to work with them) I'm pretty sure this is not the worst time of their lives for most of them.

So, this semester I'm going to be as accommodating as possible of my students. I'm going to look at deadlines as advisory. I'm going to be fine with it if they decide to convert their B into a Pass at the end of their semester, as is now their option at NC State. But A work is still A work and B work is still B work and if that is holding standards, I do not apologize.