This hurts my feelings?

This hurts my feelings?

This is a woman (an English professor at Barnard College, whose class is notorious for massive cheating) whose children have ballsy Daniel Ellsberg’s DNA coursing through their veins (she’s married to Ellsberg’s son). And she’s pathetically announcing to her large audience that it has hurt her feelings??

I’m not saying she should handle the problem this way, and produce a viral YouTube revealing to the world that she is an ass (the professor in the YouTube got his exam questions out of a book – too lazy to write his own – and thereby made it supersimple for students to get the questions in advance). I’m saying that having shown yourself a sap by your grading method (Ellsberg asked students to grade themselves), you don’t double down on the sap by making it clear that your emotional frailty will guarantee that you’ll just move from one way of being manipulated by your class to another.

In the Barnard case as in the ranting biz school professor’s case, the instructors were too lazy or too fragile or whatever to run cheating-aversive courses (I don’t say cheating-free, since it’s always possible that even in the best-run course some students will cheat). Instead of doing obvious things – writing questions students won’t be able with little effort to find in a book; not asking students to grade themselves; not allowing smartphones in class – these professors virtually welcomed their students into the world of naughty.

Even worse is the way such people tend to respond to the revelation of cheating. Of course both must have known it had been going on for years; neither one is stupid. They just let it continue until it got so bad they got pissed off (the guy) or until some poor honest soul in the class told them about it and forced some form of response (Ellsberg).

What they tend to do is get all police state about it. Ellsberg went from hippie to Kim Jong-un in no seconds flat, installing her students in device-free isolation chambers overseen by high-ranking administrators and administering there a big ol’ scary exam on which most of her students’ grade depended.


Here’s UD‘s take: If you are a cheating-enabler sort of professor — if you give take-home exams and shit like that, shit that guarantees cheating — own it. Be that thing. Get defensive when people call you on it and say it’s no one’s fucking business how you run your classes. Don’t get all schizodemento and hurl yourself from one extreme to another and hypocritically protest to the class how shocked and hurt you are. That’s what Sartre called being in bad faith. Not a good place to be.

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3 Responses to ““[E]arly in the new semester, [a student in the class] said, “it came to [the professor’s] attention that people were either passing the quizzes to their friends or just grading their own. She addressed it in class — she was basically like, this hurts my feelings, how can we fix this?””

  1. Contingent Cassandra Says:

    If Barnard has an honor code, I can see insisting that students abide by it and continuing as usual (perhaps with spot checks of their grading to make sure it’s actually happening), but otherwise, yes, this is completely negligent.

  2. ricki Says:

    Well, it would “hurt my feelings,” if by “hurt my feelings” you mean “fills me with rage at the laziness and the lengths students will go to to cheat their way through life.”

    Yes, I get angry when I find students cheating. I shouldn’t, I should just bust their sorry behinds, but it does make me angry.

    (I also wouldn’t give the same quizzes to different sections of the class, or the same assignments….)

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    From my study of this situation (I’ve read quite a few course evaluations, and several articles about the cheating; I’ve also exchanged emails with people at Columbia/Barnard) it looks as though this woman had no reason to be hurt or surprised or angry or anything except ashamed. She runs a ridiculously sloppy course (she is, for instance, apparently ALWAYS seriously late for class; apparently talks largely about her children and her horses; and apparently makes the class insultingly simple). Only professors with self-respect and respect for their students have a right to anger, hurt, whatever, in these circumstances.

    I’m not defending the students. I’m pointing out the classroom ethos this woman’s practices created.

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