Wednesday, February 20, 2008

When Using My Words Cost Me

So, I had to write a second Hump Day Hmm. This story just shot out of my memory when I read another poster's comments.

In graduate school, I had a definite experience of using my words that cost me. I was taking a human resources class, and the profressor was terrible. She seemed to have little experience in what she was teaching, and she never talked at great length on the final project - creating a benefits package for employees at a business based on a given cost maximum and certain needs as a minimum. My teammates were an Indian (no US HR experience), a Navy officer (again, no HR experience), and me (who'd never had a benefits package with a job before). We did our best and, at a minimum, we complied with the project guidelines. But I wrote an anonymous (supposedly) evaluation of how terrible the professor was. We got a 40 on our project, and I got a C for the class. We appealed the grade, but since the professor was the Dean of Research, we knew after the first level the grade was not changing. I only found out later, from a classmate who worked in the office that processed evaluations, that many times professors came in to review the hand-written evaluation (despite assurances they were anonymous) to recognize the handwriting. I am solidly convinced I got a C because I ripped my professor to shreds in that evaluation.

My recourse, though, was simple. Any solicitations from my school for funds came with one question back, "Does Dr. [her name] still have a position there? Call me when she's retired."

She retired early this year, so I can now give to the school I love so much again.


thailandchani said...

Yes, there are always the political concerns. I've never been good at that :)

Robert said...

I am the son of a politician, though one who is apolitical in his relationships. Being raised around it, though, I learned how to say a lot of words that mean very little with flair. Euphamize, mitigate, qualify... breath in... euphamize, mitigate, qualify, breathe out. That's how it feels to think political for me.

Anonymous said...

If only you could've handed in the evaluation before you were graded! Too bad it influenced your decision to donate to the school previously, the school at large shouldn't be penalized for one faculty member. I'm glad you are making amends now. Then again I have totally ignored the graduate school that I went to because of some nebulous ill-formed feelings I had when I went there, so I'm no saint either ;).

le35 said...

It seems that there are times when the evaluations should before grading but they ought not to be able to be reviewed AT ALL until after grades. However, I have to say that some of my evaluations in college turned out well.

Robert said...

Mommybytes, I felt the decision they made to employ her as the Dean of Research indicated a poor one on their part, and funding them would be a poor indication of my approval of their operation. I also dislike the president of my university, so I have other reasons not to donate. I have both my degrees from the same school.

I think you meant it was too bad I couldn't evaluate after grades. I agree. I think that is why they do them first, though, which to me is unethical. The whole idea of asking for input in a shielded way (so a student can be open and honest) and then piercing that shield... that offended me deeply. I've never truly taken that up with anyone there, but that's mostly because I don't feel like I have time to bother with it. I still love my school, though.

Robert said...

Ellie, I wrote many glowing evaluations, especially of my graduate school faculty. I agree that they should have no access until after grading.

Julie Pippert said...

Ellie is right: evaluations after grades handed in but before grades are handed out. That's the window for honesty and less conflict of interest.

My human anatomy and physiology prof dropped dead and a botany prof took over. The class was 75% premed students. The botany prof didn't know a uvula from a clavicle. We grouped together and taught ourselves from the book, with the TA. The botany prof gave us...her botany exam. We didn't know a pistil from a stamen and we ALL failed. We appealed to her, to the Dean, to anyone. Ultimately it boiled down to: she's the prof, can do what she wants and life's not fair.

Talk about utterly missing the point.

At first I thought we failed, not the class, but the trying to fix it.

Then I realized, hey, we stood up for ourselves. That counts. We lost the battle but win the war on that count, KWIM?

Robert said...

(Sidebar to Julie: Know What I Mean is a funny short story I just read by Jeffrey Archer, so I chuckle when I see you say KWIM because I know someone who uses it frequently like the main character of the story)

When I was in eighth grade, my progress report said I had a B despite having only one or two grades below an A, none even low B's, and most high A's. I challenged the teacher about it. She said I miscalculated. I checked my work and challenged again. Still, she was sure she was right. Finally I said, "Can you show me how you come up with your average?" and she showed me she was counting blocks about the width of three ballpoint pen tips by fives - as in, five, ten, fifteen - problem is she counted fifteen when we only had fourteen grades, which I knew. She, to her enormous credit, regraded every progress report by hand right there. One guy gave me a hug and offered to kiss me. I declined. My Mom didn't believe I had the A that was written on the report, though, until she verified it by the teacher, though.

I liked how my accounting professor explained it: he could write a test everyone could pass, or a test that everyone would fail, but he felt it best to write tests that gauged understanding of his material instead of gave him a certain grade distribution. He didn't care if we all aced it, if we all knew it. My father called what he said BS, but I think he was right on the money. Too many professors prefer to write tests to fail a lot of people instead of to gauge knowledge. I wish I could've taken all my accounting from that professor.