Professor fails entire class


#1

At first, I was like:

But then I was like:


#2

As an educator I must admit I’ve been tempted.


#3

His unilateral termination of the class seems like it could land him in hot water(announce standards that, if not met, get you kicked out of class? Hell yeah. Actually say “you guys suck, this class will no longer meet”? That seems like not doing your job.); but I see no problem with failing an entire class.

Maybe in K-12, particularly the lower end of that range, you can make the argument that if the class fails the teacher must have screwed up(barring suitable demonstration of deeply screwed up home life, class full of nasty learning disabilities, etc.); but at the college level? Be prepared to defend your conclusion that the students all failed; but that seems like a perfectly sound outcome…


#4

fucking Picard :smiling_imp:

tenure must be awesome.

about to RTFA, but I imagine those students must have sucked. Higher Ed is pretty broken in the US, methinks.

edit: keeps timing-out, 504 errors


#5

The dude wasn’t even tenured, but was a non-tenure lecturer. They changed his grades, actually.


#6

I was laboring under the misunderstanding that the word “professor” was only applicable to the top-tier academic who has acquired tenure and etc. Like, a DDS is a dentist, and the punk-assed underlings are all dental techs or whatever. prob a bad analogy. and yes, language is fluid, etc. still can’t get the damn page to load.


#7

You could try the place where I found the story:


#8

From the cache

###Failing the Entire Class
April 27, 2015
#####By Scott Jaschik

Irwin Horwitz had had enough. His students, he thought, weren’t performing well academically and they were being disruptive, rude and dishonest. So he sent the students in his strategic management class an email:

“Since teaching this course, I have caught and seen cheating, been told to ‘chill out,’ ‘get out of my space,’ ‘go back and teach,’ [been] called a ‘fucking moron’ to my face, [had] one student heat by signing in for another, one student not showing up but claiming they did, listened to many hurtful and untrue rumors about myself and others, been caught between fights between students….”

Horwitz said he would fail every single student. “None of you, in my opinion, given the behavior in this class, deserve to pass, or graduate to become an Aggie, as you do not in any way embody the honor that the university holds graduates should have within their personal character. It is thus for these reasons why I am officially walking away from this course. I am frankly and completely disgusted. You all lack the honor and maturity to live up to the standards that Texas A&M holds, and the competence and/or desire to do the quality work necessary to pass the course just on a grade level…. I will no longer be teaching the course, and all are being awarded a failing grade.”

The same day Horwitz sent a similar email to the senior administrators of the university telling them what he had done, and predicting (correctly) that students would protest and claim he was being unfair. The students are “your problem now,” Horwitz wrote.

The university has said that Horwitz’s failing grades will not stand. A spokesman for the university said via email that “all accusations made by the professor about the students’ behavior in class are also being investigated and disciplinary action will be taken” against students found to have behaved inappropriately. The spokesman said that one cheating allegation referenced by Horwitz has already been investigated and that a student committee cleared the student of cheating.

However, the spokesman said that the across-the-board F grades, which were based on Horwitz’s views of students’ academic performance and behavior, will all be re-evaluated. “No student who passes the class academically will be failed. That is the only right thing to do,” he said.

In an interview, Horwitz said that the class was his worst in 20 years of college-level teaching. The professor, who is new to Galveston, relocated (to a non-tenure-track position) because his wife holds an academic job in Houston, and they have had to work hard to find jobs in the same area. He stressed that the students’ failings were academic as well as behavioral. Most, he said, couldn’t do a “break-even analysis” in which students were asked to consider a product and its production costs per unit, and determine the production levels needed to reach a profit.

In most of his career, he said, he has rarely awarded grades of F except for academic dishonesty. He said he has never failed an entire class before, but felt he had no choice after trying to control the class and complaining to administrators at the university.

Students have complained that they need this class to graduate, and Horwitz said that based on the academic and behavioral issues in class, they do not deserve to graduate with degrees in business fields (the majors for which the course is designed and required).

Response to his actions has been intense. Horwitz said that he has received (and he shared) emails that were quite critical and mocked him, and others that praised him for taking a stand.

Asked if the decision to fail every one of the 30-plus enrollees was fair to every student, Horwitz said that “a few” students had not engaged in misbehavior, and he said that those students were also the best academic performers. Horwitz said he offered to the university that he would continue to teach just those students, but was told that wasn’t possible, so he felt he had no choice but to fail everyone and leave the course.

Faculty Rights

Horwitz said he believes his academic freedom has been violated in this case, because the university is changing the grades he has assigned.

Henry Reichman, chair of American Association of University Professors’ Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure and a professor emeritus of history at California State University at East Bay, said that faculty members generally do have the right to assign grades, but there are some extreme circumstances where this may be limited. He said, for example, that if a college found that a professor was failing students for clearly inappropriate reasons, the institution would be correct to intervene.

Reichman stressed that he didn’t know the facts at play in the Galveston case. But one principle that is important, he said, is hat a panel of professors should be sorting out the situation and making any final determinations.

It should be the right of a professor to grade on behavioral issues and not strictly academic ones, whether that means failing a student who engages in academic misconduct or taking off points for people who miss class or turn in work late. So he said he was troubled by the university saying that none of the behavioral issues could be legitimate reasons for failing a student. But Reichman said faculty members should always be clear about such policies. He also said he was bothered by any collective punishment in which a student is failed for the actions of other students.

When Students Misbehave and Professors Walk

When faculty members take action because students have crossed lines (frequently involving technology), the conduct of everyone is debated. In some of the most talked-about cases, collective punishment was an issue.

In 2010, two professors who taught an introductory engineering course in chemistry at Ryerson University in Canada jointly adopted a policy in which they vowed to make tests more difficult, to encourage students to pay attention. And the professors said that after three warnings about disruptions such as cell phone discussions and movies playing on laptops, the professors would walk out of class – and students would have to learn the rest of that day’s material themselves. The professors abandoned the policy amid much debate.

In 2008, a philosophy professor at Syracuse University sparked a controversy with his policy of leaving class immediately, without covering material that would have been discussed, if he caught a student texting or reading the newspaper.


#9

So anyway it appears to be a political move. He just doesn’t have the full suite of psychopathy-politik needed to brazenly stick to his guns after making it.

To my mind, his admission that some of the students were well behaved and had passing academic grades means he is attempting to draw the administration into a situation they had been effectively ignoring.

Maybe failing 90% of the students doesn’t have quite the same ring to it but at least he wouldn’t have handed an incompetent and absent authority the ammunition it needs to shoot him down.


#10

There are weird power struggles like this going on through out academia right now. Lots of public unis are centalizing and shifting to a model where students are thought of more as customers as opposed to students. They are attempting to take the power out of the departments and into the administration, and stuff like this is the result of these ongoing power struggles…

One thing I wonder is if the people who are marginaized in the faculty (adjuncts, lecturers not on a tenure track, grad students) can be the ones to make a difference, since this is the group with the heaviest teaching load, and the most engagement with the students.


#11

So the faculty are being treated as customers as well?

The hermetic sealing of business from every other facet of life continues!


Edit:

What’s the (academic) union situation like over there?


#12

I have mixed feelings, mostly because I’ve sometimes felt like the one student in the class who gave a shit. I personally would hate to be held responsible because 98 other people in the room were being assholes. I’m all for failing the vast majority of the class, if they deserve it, so long as there isn’t a minority that gets fucked over because of it. In way, I feel like it’s lazy. Assign work, accept no excuses, and let the chips fall where they may. If they were really failing, they’d really have failed.

This being said, I understand the frustration caused by electronic devices, but I have found that the professors who worry most about it, are also often the professors that don’t treat their students like adults. Ideally, in a class full of adults, they should be allowed to show up and peruse Facebook, then ultimately fail because they haven’t been paying attention all semester. I don’t think it does students any favors to basically turn university into an extension of high school. I personally feel a little vindicated when the dumbass who has been texting next to me all semester is failing the class by the end of it.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no need for an electronics policy. There is the argument that students and administrators increasingly view university education as a “service,” which I think breeds a certain level of bitterness in instructors. The irony is that the reaction too often is to try and force students to care, which only reinforces the idea that it’s a service. It’s essentially babying students. I say, let 'em fall flat on their face. I realize that from an instructor’s point of view, it can be unnerving to see half the class glaring at their crotches during a lecture, but it doesn’t distract the students who are paying attention.

On a semi-related note, it’s funny, because I was just talking to friends about the fact that I intend to stop filling out instructor evaluations unless and until the university told me what was done with them. To be completely clear, I’m cognizant of the disaster that would ensue if instructor retention was based on student feedback. Mostly it’s the opacity of the process that bothers me. It’s one thing when you have comment cards in a restaurant. It’s a business, and they’re free to use those comments however they like. But, universities aren’t “businesses” in a traditional sense. I don’t want to take it on faith that they’re using that information right, I want to know how, when, where, and what basis instructors are evaluated, as well as how any feedback I give works in this system. It’s not that I feel entitled to a particular instructor’s work record, but rather that I feel entitled to know how professors and instructors in general are found to be competent or skilled. I don’t think evaluations should be given to students without a summary of how they’re used, attached. When you’re holding your university accountable to you for an education, rather than a service, I think that’s important.


#13

More like retail workers… it’s not as bad where I am on that front, but in other schools, they indeed call students customers…

Where I am? Non-existent. Right to work…


#14

If only it worked like that… but you get bitched at for too many failing grades and for too many As. They want a distribution of grads…

I struggle with this, because I feel disrespect when people are on their phones, and that pisses me off no end (probably a personal problem, but still)… But they should be treated as adults, you’re correct.

Well, yeah, we’re a bit better about this. Those of us who invest over a decade of our lives getting a phd, putting a fair amount of our lives into this, we take it seriously and tend to be passionate about what we do. While being an academic has a strong community service component to it, they are also paying us for our expertise.

I know someone who lost her job due to student evals. Right the fuck out the door because it was a 10th of a point below what it “should” have been…

This is an excellent idea. Sometimes I do seperate anon evals in my classes, telling them to letme know what they liked, what worked, what didn’t, etc, and I tell them that I do it so they can improve the next semester. FYI, our evals go into our packet for the job market when we’re PhD candidates, and into faculty files once you have a position.

I also think that if students understood how the evals are used, they could be far more construction in what they wrote. I mean some would still be dicks, but most students would like to particpate in a process that improves their and others education.


#15

The single most intelligence-insulting phrase ever conceived for the English language.

I mean, I understand the desire to avoid grade inflation and other such ills, but that’s so problematic I don’t even know where to start.

I’ve thought about this, and since it’s my near-term aspiration to teach at this level, I’ve always felt that I would show them the same level of respect they show me by ensuring that students who show up and pay attention are the only ones capable of getting above a C. I’m sure it’s different when you’re actually up there and can see them doing it, but I feel very jaded about it at this point. Texters gonna text, it’s just a question of whether you can see them doing it or not.

Part of me really hopes that you just don’t have the full story. It’s silly to boot profs for student evals. Credibility-wise they’re a cut below Facebook status updates. The selection bias is huge, and tends to favor students with negative feedback, which are often the worst students. Of course this isn’t always the case. Before I made my resolution I had completed a fairly negative eval of an instructor, but it just worked out that way based on answering the eval questions honestly. I don’t think he was that bad, but he did suck at giving constructive feedback, and we always got our papers back super-late. I don’t think my evaluation should be used to generate a percentage point- that’s almost exactly what I don’t want. I would like it if my evaluation was part of a holistic assessment that gave it weight based on a totality of circumstances. Y’know… sense.


#16

Yes it does, for the nearby students and for any who have attention issues.


#17

So… me? The guy with who can’t afford his ADD meds and sits next to students who use their phones? Students doing anything can be distracting, if you’re easily distracted. Writing, texting, eating, breathing, sketching… it makes no difference. I have my own strategies for dealing with that, but I’m not going to pretend that playing with a phone is a magical activity that transcends others in scale. Laptops tend to be permitted, and those have bigger screens and are better lit, and make more noise when being used to take notes.


#18

Point taken!


#19

#20

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