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… is in some sort of trouble for some sort of inappropriate something.

Rather, I ask you to notice what one of his students says about his class, a psych course at Northeastern University:

“Sometimes during class, his wife will call and he’ll talk to her.”

The student also admits he’s been known to make “racially inappropriate” comments, and told students on their first day to not even bother buying the textbook listed on the class syllabus.

“We haven’t learned anything,” she says, claiming she has yet to receive a grade. Because she has no grades to her name, however, she’s nervous she won’t be granted credit for the class — a class she’s already paid for.

This is only one student; but these are observations reasonably easy to confirm or deny by talking to other students.

Let’s say she’s describing things correctly. Put aside the claim about racial insensitivity, which presumably is related to the trouble he’s now in. (He’s been removed from the class, but Northeastern is refusing to say why.) This is a professor who talks on his cell phone during class. He assigns a textbook and then tells students not to buy it. He hasn’t given out a grade yet, and they’re probably past the midway point of their semester. “We haven’t learned anything.”

Why do students put up with it? Over the course of writing this blog, UD has encountered other stories like this — classes where a scandalous lack of anything is going on, about which not one student seems to complain.

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4 Responses to “I draw your attention not to the fact that this guy….”

  1. Van L. Hayhow Says:

    I only took one course like this in my life. The professor was one of the brightest in the school; having a Phd in History and a Masters in one of the hard sciences. If I recall both were from Harvard. He apparently decided to retire years ago but didn’t tell anyone. He showed up late, lectured badly from yellowed notes and graded tests by reading just the first answer you wrote. I mean that literally. I so disliked the course, I stopped reading the materials and taking notes in class so for the first exam there was only one question I knew the answer to. I put that answer first and literally made up answers to the rest of the questions to fill up the blue book. (I had heard that that was how he graded). I got a B+ in the exam. I couldn’t take it any more so I dropped the course. As far as I know, no one else did. Some, I suspect, wanted the easy B grade. Others may have been afraid to rock the boat.

  2. Jonah R. Says:

    Why do students put up with this? It’s simple: very few of them are actually paying their own bill, and the ones who eventually will don’t really grasp the importance yet of getting something for their five- or six-digit expenditure.

  3. Timothy Burke Says:

    I think when it happens to you as a student for the first time, you’re honestly not sure at first that it is happening. I had only one experience like this as an undergraduate–it was a professor who was a very serious alcoholic. I had a chance to get to know him later outside the class and he was a very funny, warm, and thoughtful person when he wasn’t drunk (and even when he was only lightly drunk) and was actually good at running discussion and being a sensitive mentor to some students but it simply crippled his ability to stand up before a class and lecture clearly. I wasn’t sure at first why his lectures made no sense, or whether it was just a one-off bad lecture, but after four weeks, I was in fact pretty sure what the issue was and it was the only class I ever dropped while I was a student. But I was a more assured student than a lot of my peers–some of them really didn’t know what he was saying was incoherent or circular, or took a lot longer to realize that. Others might have reckoned that at least they’d do some good readings, learn a few things, and get a good grade (he was reputedly an easy grader).

  4. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Tim: Yes. I too dropped a course in this way when I was an undergraduate — though in my utter innocence about things like alcoholism it took me a long time to do so.

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