Friday, July 11, 2008

Uh, The Clowns DO Run the Circus, Right? But We Still Get Your Point. Wisconsin Willie Waits.

I teach at a major university in the Midwest. I will not tell you which one because it might hurt the students and administrators feelings.

I am not a tenured faculty in the management area but nonetheless love and respect my job. I spent 10 years in corporate America and simultaneously taught as an adjunct, swearing one day to do what I love to do the most - teach. I have been teaching at this school for 6 years with mostly glowing recommendations. Upon finishing finals this past semester, I took a deep breath and began to relax. After all, I was to teach only one class in summer school and had three weeks before it began.

I received a call two days before the class was to begin from the Human Resources ombudsman of the college. He advised me the administration had received student complaints and would be putting me on paid leave until things were resolved. I was also informed I would not be teaching the summer class.

I waited two weeks before I received a subsequent phone call. The ombudsman informed me that a couple of students said I cheated on the evaluations and actually saw them before I turned them in. Another couple of students said that I favored pretty women in class and had actually touched one of them on the back, and a few other students said that I had a clique and only those students would receive good grades.

I waited another four weeks before I received a phone call from HR. This was my “interview” as they called it. HR asked me the following questions:

  1. Did you touch a student on the back? No I said. What would be the purpose?

  2. Did you offer to give a student a ride home? No.

  3. Why did you cheat on the evaluations and look at them before they were turned in? (This is impossible as my TA administered and collected these while I remained outside the classroom) I did not cheat on the evaluations and take out the ‘bad’ ones. Think about it. If I did take out the ‘bad’ evaluations, then we would not be having this conversation because you would not have anything ‘bad’ to talk to me about!

  4. Why did you have cliques in class? I did not have cliques. I had the perpetual ‘clingons’—those that stay after class to ask questions that most of the time have nothing to do with the class itself.

  5. Why did you…(HR reviewed my evaluations and asked ‘why’ on several of the comments I received in my evaluations, most of which had nothing to do with the current investigation) I asked about these comments and whether they were HR’s responsibility or my faculty manager’s responsibility?

During this telephone interview, not one time did I receive the benefit of the doubt. HR’s response when I commented on the validity of these allegations was, “Why would students make something up like this?”

Obviously these people know nothing about how deceitful, cunning, irresponsible, and just downright mean these kids can be. In fact, one student told me last semester, “Dr. X, I think we are the customers and you are the company. You must provide us with excellent service. If we think you are not providing us with this service, we will tell your boss.” First of all, they are not my customers, they are my students. Second of all, if they are not experts in pedagogy, how do they know I am providing them with what they need? Believe it or not, some people may not like the method and content of a lesson, but it is what they ‘need’ even though they may not ‘want’ it. A question for all faculty: Why are the clowns running the circus?

In summary, I am sitting at home waiting on the verdict from the ivory academic administration towers. If they believe these students, then I am out of a job. If they believe me I may still be out of a job because these students are paying (customers) and the administration wants to make sure they keep coming back. If I do get my job back, they I will speak well of this institution and the intestinal fortitude it took to stand by a lowly teaching faculty.

Stay tuned…