My professor’s intimidating, confrontational style makes the classroom atmosphere difficult to tolerate. I can't drop the class or switch sections. What should I do?
posted by anonymous to Education (55 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I’m in an advanced-level business class. The students are all seniors, post-bacs and graduate students, but the professor treats us as if we were a bunch of insubordinate kids in need of discipline. He doesn’t do this all the time, but it’s frequent enough that I’ve started to dread the class.
The class runs for two hours, and we are not given any breaks. If someone leaves their seat to go to the restroom, he will occasionally pause the lecture to interrogate them, ask where they’re going, or insist that they’re going to miss the best part of the lecture in the five minutes that they’re gone. Sometimes he laughs and tries to pass this sort of thing off as a joke, but very few (if any) of us find it funny.
When students ask questions, he often interrupts them or cuts them off before they’ve even finished articulating their questions. If they give an incorrect answer to a question he poses, he often chews them out for it, even if they can demonstrate verbally that they’ve read the assigned material and understood the concepts. At this point the only students who speak up voluntarily anymore seem to be the most thick-skinned ones. I’m not very thick-skinned, so I remain silent in class unless he calls on me directly. Sooner or later, though, he’ll probably put me on the spot and challenge me to explain why I’m so damn quiet all the time. (He’s already done that to another student).
He picks on people mercilessly. This week, for example, he loudly berated a student for not being able to answer the professor’s question:
Professor (pointing at student, after describing a long scenario): What’s the answer?
Student: Uh, I’m not sure. I was a bit distracted. I missed some of the details.
Professor (aggressively): WHY? Why aren’t you paying attention? What were you doing? What’s the matter? Don’t you take this class seriously?
Student (meekly): I’m sorry. I was reading something for a moment.
Professor: If you’re not going to pay attention and take this class seriously, then get the hell out of my class! Either you get on the ball, or you get your ass out of here!
Student (embarrassed): I’m sorry, Professor. I got it. I’m taking it seriously from now on.
At that point a couple of the students gave each other quizzical looks of disbelief, as if to say “What IS this, anyway? Reform school? The military?”
I felt sorry for the student he confronted, and wanted to stand up for him, but I feared that the professor would turn his wrath on me. If the professor ever does try to humiliate me like that, I doubt I’ll be able to endure it. I’ll probably just get up and walk out. I almost walked out today in protest of his treatment of a fellow student, but I knew I’d pay a high price if I did so, and I need this class to graduate.
Two weeks into the term, and already I dread going to class (which is very unusual for me; I love school, and my other classes are great). It’s a required class, and my class schedule is set in stone through my graduation date this summer, so I can’t drop it. There are no other sections available, so I can’t switch to a different instructor. I’m stuck with him until the end of the term.
What should I do? Is there anything that can be done, short of confronting him directly, to get him to ease up or treat the students more respectfully? I don’t want to confront him, because I fear he might hold it against me at grading time, or even try to humiliate me in front of the class and then claim it was “all in fun”.
Would this sort of behavior be considered harassment? He's never threatened or sexually harassed anyone, to the best of my knowledge. Should I document all the individual incidents in the classroom, and take my complaint to the university ombuds office? He's a visiting professor from another university; would this make a difference? Should I complain to the department head, and suggest that they confront him?
Advice, encouragement, suggestions, coping strategies, personal experiences – all are welcome. Thank you!
Throwaway e-mail: merciless.professor at gmail.