Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ranting and Raving Gets You NOWHERE

But I'm giving you an earful anyway. Maybe someone will have a better mind than I do as to how I can... work with this situation.

Rant & Rave #1 

Last quarter I paid $825 to take a grad course in Mediation. 12-week course. The professor was mostly absentee and didn't submit grades until the next quarter had already begun. Here's the letter I recently wrote to the department head and dean:
Dear Dr. So-and-so,
 I write to you with disappointment and some resentment. As I am sure you are aware, there were a number of irregularities in the recent NCR 525 course with Dr. ........... First, the professor was absent for most of the initial two weeks. Then she disappeared several times throughout the course, and stopped giving new lectures and material halfway through. Students had trouble contacting Dr. ........., especially via email; questions went unanswered and we resorted to a lot of guesswork as we constantly tried to consult one another via frantic phone calls and email blasts.
When all was said and done, I only received scores for three out of fifteen assignments. Of those three, I only received feedback/comments on two assignments. While I did receive a score for the final paper (worth 40% of the grade), I have no score or feedback for a very involved role-play assignment (supposedly worth 20% of the grade) that required significant time and effort from classmates and family members who participated. My husband even took sick days from work to watch our baby so I could complete all of the assignments for this course.
Did I master the core concepts? I have no way of knowing, since I taught myself from the course readings and could only compare my understanding to that of other students. Regardless of the fact that I was eventually (quite belatedly) issued an “A” in the course, I’m still finding it hard to stomach the fact that all of this happened in a Master’s program that I have invested so much in and will be asking future employers to take seriously.
I feel let down and, to be frank, swindled by the experience in this course. If each student paid full tuition and completed each assignment, CSUDH received more than $24,000 and thousands of hours worth of work from the students in this course; what we received in return was unacceptable by all standards of quality. I’d like to know what steps insert university name here is taking to make this right.
What was the university's response? Get an assistant adjunct professor to re-grade all of our assignments. Because that makes it all squared away? Don't get me wrong. I'm glad they're doing something, but as I noted above, we had no idea what we were supposed to be turning in half the time or whether we had mastered initial concepts before building on them with others. So having someone come in after the fact and just hand out grades seems a bit half-hearted.
Aside from that, I already had an "A" in the bag, so just re-grading everything doesn't really improve on my outlook on the situation. What do I think would be just? An official apology, for one thing. Maybe a partial tuition refund, for another thing. A large part of what you pay for in a course is the professor's expertise, to which we had scant/no access. I'd like someone to look me in the eye and tell me that grading me ex post facto fulfills the university's obligation to provide an educational service worth what I paid and worked for...
At least have the decency to look me in the eye when you try to pull the wool over it.

Rant & Rave #2 

I am slogging through the 3rd trimester of my pregnancy, trying to raise the terrible-twos toddler I already have while finishing my Master's degree. Last spring quarter, the program advisor sent me a roadmap for what I needed to complete for graduation. I followed it, and am currently working on my Master's portfolio (like a thesis) so I can graduate in May (when the new little baby is due).
Today, 4 weeks into the 12 week course, my advisor emails me asking why I'm registered for the Capstone Portfolio course when I still need one more elective course. WHAAA...?!
I forwarded her advisement record to me showing that I completed every course she said I needed, and told her that I was looking at my Degree Progress Report online, which also indicated that I'd met all the course requirements before taking the final Capstone course and graduating.
Her response was, "Looking at this [her email to me] I missed you needing 1 extra elective…" And upon further inspection, there was an IT error on the Degree Progress Report letting it show that the requirement was met when it wasn't, so she'd have to get that fixed with the IT department. WHAAA--?!!!
I'm being withdrawn from the course this quarter--but don't worry we'll refund you the tuition--and instead of graduating in May as planned, I will have to register for an elective in the Summer quarter (April-June), then take the Capstone course from September-December. So I'll just have to give birth in the middle of the quarter and keep on a-chuggin'. Sorry 'bout that.
I based my course plan on what a reasonable person could have assumed to be reliable information. I needed to be done this quarter so I could get my degree before we have a second child and move to Washington, D.C. this summer (oh yeah, didn't I mention? That's all in the mix, too.).
University, no. No to you. I-- I-- totally at a loss here.
I'm emailing the three professors teaching elective courses this summer to see if I can either get a head start on the coursework or get some leniency on due dates (pun sort of intended) for their courses. Then I'll pick whichever course it seems like I can survive.
If anyone has a good answer for what I can do, don't hesitate to let me know. My brain is fried with the anger, shock, and resentment right now, so my best ideas tonight involve 1) eating sleeves of Oreos and Girl Scout cookies and/or 2) leaving flaming bags of dog poo on faculty members' doorsteps.


Skubic said...

Do not bother RAVING. Trust me.

Caitlin said...

@Skubic: Thanks for the tip. I never could successfully swing glow sticks around my head without minor injuries, anyhow.

Christopher Rodney said...

While you did your best to remove pertinent info, one reference to CSUDH remains. Lol. That's actually kind of crazy that they made you pay extra for that course just to have so little interaction with the professor. I think your rant in this case is right on. And, as you mention, the important thing aside from the education itself, is the reputation of that education. You want the Master's degree to be worth something. The fact that they regraded may mean that they took the letter seriously and you may have helped future students (and even yourself as the school's reputation improves.) Or it could mean someone wanted to kick the can down the road. Still, good for you for taking an active role in improving the program.