Professorial sadness

I went to visit a very, very well-respected professor today to give a few ideas that I thought could improve a course I’m in. I thought I was respectful and mindful of my status as a student (i.e. not [yet] a professor and not very well educated on pedagogy).

I was met with the honestly outraged, “Are you trying to tell me how to run my course?” The feeling I got was, “Who the hell do you think you are?”

The prof brought up my wish to be a professor, and told me pretty firmly that I’d find things different when I was on the other side of the podium. Well, yeah, but evidently, ideas from my current side of the podium aren’t accepted, either. Perhaps one must have a Ph.D. in order to provide remotely useful feedback.

In response to my ideas for other kinds of dialogue in class, I was given the standard line around here that Rose students are dumb in non-engineering areas and so the bar is set low. I grow weary of that excuse. In addition, my ties to other professors (through taking some classes with them) were brought up cattily, despite having little relevance.

The professor took every chance possible to demean and dismantle my argument and my opinion, as though not only were it dumb of me to take it to the prof, but it was silly of me to even think my ideas could be worth anything. It seemed as though the very idea that my ideas were present was a threat that had to be broken down. The prof took great pains to turn my argument around to match the prof’s. The end result felt like, “See, we both want more analysis. Too bad that won’t happen.”

I’ll admit to being rather in shock; I don’t know a single student of this professor who wouldn’t be floored at the response I received.

I don’t knock anyone’s right to reject ideas, or even to do so rudely or curtly. I’m also not trying to smear anyone’s reputation, but the experience is so markedly different from what the prof’s reputation suggests, I felt like writing it down. I’ve lost a hell of a lot of respect for the prof, which makes me sad.

4 thoughts on “Professorial sadness”

  1. If I am thinking of the correct prof, that is exceptionally suprising. I’m sorry to say that knocks my respect level down a notch or two as well.

    The response your received also seems to demean the whole idea of course evaluation. If professors actually take suggestions for class improvement so defensively and/or lightly, what is the purpose of asking students for feedback?

    And, I concur wholly on the over-use of the “Rose students are adept at non-engineering subjects” excuse. Last time I checked, there were some Rose students who did some pretty awesome independent, non-engineering writing. The humanities may not be everyone’s bag, but that doesn’t mean that those who do have a secondary passion for it should be deprived of a quality class experience.

    Dulin is right, as well. I’m certain your suggestions were very well thought and valuable.

  2. Oops, that should say “Rose students are NOT adept at non-engineering subjects.”

  3. Thanks, Dulin. *hug*

    Mae: I agree with you about the feedback thing. I’m still kind of wondering if I broached things too quickly or in the wrong manner, but I certainly felt like I had my respectful hat on. 🙂

    You know, if I hadn’t been 65 pages into an assertive training book, I’d have been bowled over by this whole thing, but I managed to hold my own, despite dealing with a prestigious professor kind of ripping me up. Yay, near-assertiveness.

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