In danger of failing
June 29, 2019 5:38 AM   Subscribe

I am in danger of being kicked out of my graduate program because of a couple of mistakes I made when filling out paperwork for my internships. What are my rights? What are my next steps?

I am in a healthcare field as an allied health professional. I have almost a perfect GPA; it is a challenging program and the lowest grade I have ever received in a class is a 90. I have never had any behavior problems in the program or been reprimanded for anything before. Professors have regularly praised my professionalism. Up until today I thought things were going well and I stood a good chance of getting into the honors program. I don't say this to brag or make excuses for my mistakes; I know it's not an excuse. I just say that to show that I have no prior history of any problems at all in the program, which makes what happened today even more jarring to me.

I've been having relationship problems and I just broke up with someone I really loved and saw a future with. The stress of it was distracting from school but I've still been trying to push through and do well in spite of everything. I also have ADHD and I'm between medications; I'm seeing a doctor at the end of August about trying a new medication. I cannot get in sooner. I was diagnosed recently and have no paperwork documenting that I need accommodations. My ADHD has never affected my schooling so I did not think accommodations were necessary. I would rather not get accommodations now. The major accommodations my school offers are a note taker and extended test time, neither of which are necessary for me. Doing well on tests has never been a problem for me.

We are starting our first internship. It is for credit and is graded as pass/fail. We have to write a quick note after every internship. I failed the first note because I had to analyze an activity that the clients did and the professor basically said that it seemed like I didn't try at all on it. I looked at it again and I see where my mistakes were. I re-did it and had two friends read it over; they both said it looked good and had no constructive criticism to offer. The professor is letting me re-submit it. I'm going to read it again before submitting it.

For my second note, I forgot to write my name, the date, and the location of my internship on top. Yes, I know that's bad and little mistakes like that wouldn't fly in a clinic. But the professor said it was an automatic fail and refused to even read the note. She now said that I'm failing this program and will be kicked out if I make another mistake on these notes. She's letting me re-do the first two but now it's hanging over my head that one more mistake and I'm done. I've already submitted both parts of the third note--it was longer than the first two--and I'm terrified that I'm going to be kicked out without a degree and no where to go. I'm young, I'm broke, school is so demanding that I work only a few hours a week making very little.

Reality check me here. Is this really such a severe offense that I should be expelled? I'm having a hard time believing that I'd be fired from a job this quickly. What are my rights? What are my next steps? Should I just wait and see if I get kicked out before doing anything? Should I fight it if I do get kicked out?

My concern is that I wouldn't get into another program because they'll see that I got kicked out of my internship, which would look bad. Part of me wants to drop out so it doesn't show that I got kicked out, which would make it easier to transfer into another program, though I still may need to take a year off. I could transfer into a program closer to my family and live at home. I have no idea how transferring would work--it would be from a state school to a private school--but I could at least try.

This professor has a history of being really nasty to students in general. She once called out a student in front of the entire class because she bent over and the professor could see her boobs. She regularly yells at kids in class in front of the entire class. She makes frequent snarky comments. We all dislike her. We're all afraid of her on some level, and given the therapeutic nature of our profession the irony of having a professor be so nasty isn't lost on us at all.

What are my next best steps if I do get kicked out? What are my rights? I know I'm not there yet; my notes may improve and I may sail through and be fine. I just want to be prepared for what happens next if that doesn't happen.

Throaway email:

Thanks in advance
posted by anonymous to Education (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry this is happening to you. It sounds like this professor is drunk on her own power.

Does your school have a dean of students, or do you have an advisory dean? Or a mentor? If so, you should go to that person immediately and tell them that you have a recent diagnosis of ADHD (bring whatever paperwork you have to that meeting) and are currently not on medications pending your appointment with your doctor. This doesn't necessarily mean you ask for/get accommodations, but rather, so the school has a record of a medical diagnosis that may act as an extenuating circumstance in case the professor tries to kick you out.

You may also want to tell them about these issues with this professor -- while they may not have the ability to move you to a different internship, they might have strategies to deal with challenging supervisors (this will almost certainly come up again in your career -- if not on grades, then on promotion or a raise or some other factor where your supervisor acts like they have Ultimate Power).
posted by basalganglia at 6:06 AM on June 29, 2019 [9 favorites]

My grad schoolhad a field advisor separate from the person for the credit portion of the internship. Is there someone adjacent but not the professor in question you can talk to about this? People in an upper year who have managed to pass this professor?

Your professor is wrong, people make mistakes in clinic notes all the time . There's is an an Error button in EMR for a reason and it's that people chart things wrong! in the wrong chart in fact. It's just normal.

For the notes I suggest making a template to use like a PDF form going forward that will highlight if any field is left blank. It would be some work to set up but once it was it may decrease your anxiety.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:10 AM on June 29, 2019 [17 favorites]

Your school likely has a student ombud, who you should go and see immediately.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:23 AM on June 29, 2019 [9 favorites]

Go to the disabilities office (who might be able to guide you even if you're not formally registered with them) as well as the Dean of Students, Director of Graduate Studies, and/or Ombudsman post haste. Take action before this unhinged psycho tries to kick you out of graduate school for forgetting to write your name on a piece of paper.

Try to get evidence of her threats to kick you out in writing or email if you can, too
posted by shaademaan at 6:24 AM on June 29, 2019 [3 favorites]

Seconding everything basalganglia said about contacting administrators in your program. Your department may also have a director of graduate studies so that’s another title to look for, though a Dean of Students is higher up the food chain, I believe. The main thing you need to do is share with them what happened from your perspective and find out what your rights are. Do you know if this professor actually has the power to have you expelled? Find out if she does and also find out what your recourse is (eg can you appeal the decision). I would be extremely surprised if one professor could do this by fiat with no chance of appeal, but schools do vary.

Based on what you write here this professor sounds abusive, which is unfortunately kind of common in medicine, common enough that my own employer, a public med school, is making noises about trying to eradicate it, sending out surveys asking if people have ever experienced or witnessed workplace hostility, etc. My suspicion is that the administrator you contact will already know about this person, though of course it depends on how the other students she’s abused have been handling it and whether they’ve felt safe enough to speak up. But sometimes the abuse perpetrated by this kind of person is obvious even to colleagues.

Best of luck - I believe and hope that this will work out for you.
posted by eirias at 6:25 AM on June 29, 2019

From an anonymous member:
I was asked to repeat my internship at a school that was cohort based, so I was essentially expelled without being expelled for a procedure mistake that was a big deal but also not a big deal at all. It was procedural, no one was in danger, I did not commit a crime, no one was harmed. But it did cost me the internship for a variety of reasons.

It was not the end of the world. I have a graduate degree and practice in that field. In fact, my credits transfered! I did have to repeat my first year internship, at the new school but no one really even asked about it. The new internship liked me so much they hired me. I did use some pat excuse when talking to the new school about it, such as the program not being a good fit. And it wasn't one. My new school had a program I loved. I don't regret it at all even if I'm embarassed about it.

No matter what you will get through this!
posted by taz at 6:32 AM on June 29, 2019 [20 favorites]

In addition to the suggestions above, I would also go talk to a dean or academic advisor to make sure that this single professor actually has the ability/power to kick you out of the program. Is she correct that she can fail you for the mistake you describe above (my guess would be probably yes, it’s her class)? Is she correct that if she fails you, and for that reason, you would be kicked out of the program? Is she correct that you’d have no way of appealing that? Get all those facts straight.
posted by sallybrown at 6:55 AM on June 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

I do clinical QM. Such mistakes happen frequently, and they are hardly grounds for termination or any kind of serious censure.

Your professor is out of line and needs to get over herself. I would not go the disability route.

1) Does your department have a director above this prof? I would reach out to him/her, especially if this prof’s reputation proceeds her.

2) I would be bringing back that first note and looking more closely at her feedback vs. the grading rubric. That you noted, “I failed the first note because I had to analyze an activity that the clients did and the professor basically said that it seemed like I didn't try at all on it.” If you satisfied that rubric, then marking you down despite that is really the first negative interaction here.

3) Have a teacher (who you have good rapport with) check your notes and get their independent feedback.
posted by executive_dysfuncti0n at 7:55 AM on June 29, 2019

I would do as everyone else has suggested and seek advice from the dean of students, ombudsman, disability office etc.

But also, once you've got those things in motion, take a breath. It's entirely possible this professor made an empty threat, beyond anything they have the power to actually* do, just because they're an asshole. Like, y'all all know she's trouble already so clearly that wouldn't be uncharacteristic behavior. There are lots of instructors out there in the world who don't care much for proper pedagogy and either think their "reign of terror" methodology is great OR they're tenured and don't give a shit and it's fun to be a big fish in a tiny pond.

*I mean, it probably is within her power to fail you, and she's likely done it before, but she'll likely only do it if she thinks you'll just hang your head and leave rather than fighting back. So go ahead and work the system just so she knows you're not going to be a fun game to play.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:05 AM on June 29, 2019 [7 favorites]

When I was a grad student, I got a new academic advisor, because of her failure to advise, and creation of undue stress to create a dependency, or because of a breakup in her life. Your professors are working for you. You are paying them for their expertise. Life happens, you were doing well before your diagnosis, breakups are distracting. Get your sense of self back, and make the others in the situation perform as they should.
posted by Oyéah at 11:52 AM on June 29, 2019

You could also reach out to the strict teacher before she returns the third note. The email could be along the lines of, "You recently let me know that one additional mistake could be the end of my internship. I want to note that I had already submitted my third note before this warning and before the feedback I received on my second. I appreciate being allowed to correct the first two notes and have taken this issue seriously. I am committed to improving the quality and attention to detail in my notes and have taken several steps to make this happen. Recently, I have gotten a tutor, seen a doctor about suspected ADHD, and doubled the amount of time in my schedule to work on the notes [or whatever]. I expect that these steps will lead to the needed improvement going forward."

In other words, ask that she please not fail you if your third note still has some issues.
posted by salvia at 2:13 PM on June 29, 2019

I would also note that now it appears as if your ADHD (or combo of ADHD and circumstances) are causing you school-related troubles so definitely get it on the record somewhere that you need accommodations.

Also check the syllabus and your school’s internal appeal process. Not for now but in case you need it in the future. I’m sorry this is happening - it sounds very stressful.
posted by hepta at 7:47 PM on June 29, 2019

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