Professor Problems

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by Mal, Dec 17, 2006.

  1. Mal macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2002
    Alright, this is a bit of a tale, so sit back and prepare to get angry (at least I hope you do).

    My fiance is just now finishing the Intro to Computing class at Valencia Community College here in Orlando. Should be an easy class, of course, especially at community college. Subject matter was indeed basically very easy, lots of busy work but nothing difficult. The problems arose with one of her final assignments.

    For the final paper (about a month ago now), the teacher sent out a list of prompts to choose from, and the one my fiance selected was listed as "How Safe is a Network?" Not seeing any instructions that specified that the title must match exactly, she titled the paper Network Security, since that was the terminology used in the book (which doesn't mention network safety or safety in relation to a network at all), and proceeded to agonize over the paper for several days, wanting to write it well, considering the teacher had already shown some quirks in grading and was obviously not very knowledgeable. Basically, she thought she was writing a fool-proof paper that couldn't fail to be clear.

    When the grading came back at first, she had been given a grade of 50%. The reasoning? She was accused of plagiarism. The proof? A Google search results page, with the search query being her entire first sentence. Note: this was not an actual website, but merely the page that comes up with the results of your search. None of the pages linked from that page contained the phrase she had used, nor any form of it beyond what would be considered common knowledge and thus unnecessary citations. Since that did not constitute proof, my fiance emailed the teacher about it, and was essentially told that there were many other things (unproven) that were plagiarized, and that she deserved a 0 but the teacher was being nice by giving her a 50 because she believed that the summary was at least her own work. After attempting to email her again and receiving no response for a week, my fiance talked to the Dean. The Dean agreed with her that the paper was not plagiarized and told my fiance that she would talk to the teacher and that the paper would be regraded properly.

    After not seeing any changes in the grading for another week, my fiance once again emailed the teacher to find out whether she was even intending to comply with the Dean's instructions, upon which she received an email stating that, as a "courtesy", the teacher had regraded her paper, and was now giving her a 70 because she had mistitled her paper "Network Security" instead of "How Safe is a Network". Again, remember that not only did the instructions not state that the title must be the same as the prompt, but the two subjects are synonymous. Of course still not satisfied (since that would drag her overall grade from a well-deserved A to a B), my fiance emailed her back to find out if the mistitled paper was truly deserving of 30 points off (remember, the "plagiarized" version was 50 points off, so apparently the title was a bigger penalty than copying the paper). She never received a response (sound familiar?) so once again emailed the Dean, who also emailed the teacher asking for detailed grading criteria and notes, which were provided finally by the teacher within a few days.

    The essence of the notes, which took up a full page and a half about the three page paper, were that the paper should have been about "How Safe is a Network", which the teacher claimed should have been focused on topics such as internet predators, identity theft, and online shopping, instead of Network Security, which my fiance had obviously written primarily about protecting wired and wireless networks from intrusion and protecting data on a networked computer from unauthorized access. Apparently the teacher thinks she was being very gracious to give her 30 points for good grammar and structure, and 40 points for thoroughly covering the subject matter, since it was about "the wrong topic". Now, my fiance is currently in the process of emailing both the Dean and the teacher about this incredibly stupid "regrading" of her paper.

    Are there any other options to help my fiance get the grade she deserves on this paper and in the class? If it didn't affect her overall grade by a full letter grade, she probably would have given up, but that's a pretty big deal when she's in the right and the teacher is obviously in the wrong.

    Also, is there any reason why such an incompetent teacher would end up teaching an online class about computers, and why she should continue to teach that class to future groups of students? Is there anything we can do that will assist in removing this teacher from her position? (We wrote a long letter in place of the teacher assessment for another class before, which we can only hope was read by someone who matters.)

    Thanks for reading, I guess this was mostly a rant, but I had to get it out.

  2. dpaanlka macrumors 601


    Nov 16, 2004
    If I tried to count the number of incompetent professors I've had on fingers, I would run out of hands.

    The worst was a "professor" of a multimedia intro class. Not only did he not teach us anything, but he couldn't answer any of our questions about anything, and would do really weird things like trying to "fix" a lab iBook whose battery had died by punching it.
  3. thedude110 macrumors 68020


    Jun 13, 2005
    Your fiance is doing the right thing by appealing directly to the Dean. As it seems the Dean is on her side, I would remain patient.

    If the Dean ultimately decides that a 70 is a fair grade, I wouldn't push the issue. A B is not a bad grade and won't have a severely adverse impact on her overall GPA. What may have a severely adverse impact on her GPA would be trying to fight a grade that administration deems fair. Teachers talk -- and while most teachers are fair, unfair teachers will judge a kid not by who they are, but who they've heard they are.

    If you really want to push the issue -- and find out if other students have had similar problems with the teacher -- a letter to the editor of the college or local newspaper may be worth your time. That would allow you and the professor to publicly state your mutual version of events.

    In other words -- I'm glad she's advocating for herself, but she needs to know her limits, too. If the Dean says the grade is fair, odds are there's no conspiracy against her.
  4. emmawu macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2005
    Wauwatosa, WI
    Your school should have a committee concerning student complaints. I received a wrong "B" from an upper level creative writing course and took my papers, grades, etc and got it changed to an "A". Another recourse is to took to the chair of the department as well as the Dean. There's also a website called "rate your" where you can alert unsuspecting students. Try to get in resolved ASAP. The college should also have a board of regents where you can register a complaint. Good luck!
  5. Spanky Deluxe macrumors 601

    Spanky Deluxe

    Mar 17, 2005
    London, UK
    What an idiot!! If he meant for that he should have title the paper "How Safe is the Internet. Network safety has nothing to do with that stuff. Eugh! I'm so sorry to hear about this horrible situation, it must be highly frustrating for you and your fiancee. It sounds like you're going the right way about it all though, I wish you luck!!
  6. Kwyjibo macrumors 68040


    Nov 5, 2002
    I once had a similar problem.

    I had kept track of every single one of my grades. My prof posted the final exam scores, and it showed that i had like an 84. The 84 made my grade 88, or a B+. I got my grades, and he gave me the regular B. I emailed him and asked him. He said the system had wrongly reported the numbers, and that i had gotten something like an 83.4 on the final. I accepted this, but my average was still 87.6. I got confused. His next email said, I don't consider decimals when finalizing grades.


    The emails got snippier and snippier and he won because I didn't push it with the dept chair because it was a spring course and well I got lazy. Kind of upset I didn't though, I hate professors who ride their high horse.
  7. AmbitiousLemon Moderator emeritus


    Nov 28, 2001
    down in Fraggle Rock
    Let me answer this form the teacher's point of view. It sounds to me like the teacher read the paper and thought it was plagiarized. The fact that it was on the "wrong" topic probably made that even more convincing. He probably would have given her a zero but couldn't find good enough proof so he just gave her a 50% thinking he was being generous.

    The Dean probably doesn't actually agree, but just wants to get rid of a complainer and therefore asked the professor to re-grade. So the professor re-graded the paper (stilling thinking it was plagiarized and just angry he couldn't prove it). Since its on the "wrong topic" he knocks off 30 points and again thinks its extremely generous for a plagiarized paper on the wrong subject.

    Its impossible for us to say if the prof was correct since we can't see the paper, but its usually pretty obvious so I suspect he was right. We see papers all the time where it is obvious someone has plagiarized but they have changed things enough where a simply google search doesn't get any clear matches. Usually we just take off a big chunk of points (instead of giving the student an XF) and usually the student accepts it because they know they screwed up.

    Being at a community college you might be a bit better off complaining because most professors at community colleges don't teach there full time, and therefore may not talk to each other as much as at a university.

    I think your gf should ask herself why the prof thinks her paper was plagiarized, and make sure she doesn't make the same mistake again.
  8. a456 macrumors 6502a


    Oct 5, 2005
    This is getting seriously supernatural!

    A word to those that criticize teachers - try it for yourself and also try teaching in the same field as your expertise but 'off topic'. It's not easy, which is no excuse but the pressures and demands of teaching are high.
  9. Mal thread starter macrumors 603


    Jan 6, 2002
    Here's the deal: I know why the professor thought it was plagiarized (forgot to include this in the OP). She used the website (good service overall), but apparently wasn't trained properly and so when it came up with a page that matched the phrase (which was actually just the Google results page), she assumed it was plagiarized and marked it as such. The Dean explained that this is a bug in's system, and that they're familiar with it, but the teacher just didn't realize it. So yes, the Dean is convinced, and no, the paper wasn't plagiarized (and my fiance will freely admit it wasn't a perfect paper, certainly worse than any that could have been purchased), but the problem is that the professor can't provide any legitimate reason for her grading. If she wanted to say it wasn't a very good paper, that's one thing, but now she's making up reasons that aren't part of the stated grading scale, which is a serious problem.

    We haven't heard from the teacher yet, but the Dean said she thought the final grade for the class had been input as an A, but she wasn't sure if the system was giving her the midterm or final grade (they're in the process of publishing final grades in their system). Hopefully she'll get the A, since she deserves it, but she might have to fight it some more if the teacher's still being stubborn.

    And to all those talking about how hard it is for teachers, I've substitute taught, and my sister is a teacher. I know how hard it can be. That's no excuse for the sheer stupidity and hardheadness this teacher has shown. When the Dean tells you to change a grade because you've made a false accusation of plagiarism (a very serious accusation), you do it quickly, you do it properly and carefully, and you don't act like you've got a chip on your shoulder because of your own mistake. This teacher has been nothing but trouble already throughout the course, and this was merely the biggest problem.


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