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Fighting a professor's decision?

  1. Feb 11, 2008 #1
    my friend went to an engineering competition this past week during midterms and informed our intermediate mechanics professor late, 2 days prior, so now the professor is penalizing him. he's giving him the exam with 2 extra questions in the same period of time and the maximum he can get is 75%. his sole reason for doing this is that he's insulted that it was such short notice.

    he's a tenured professor. is there anyway to appeal his decision? can the department chair override his decision. i fear that nothing can be done even though i hope that something can be.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 11, 2008 #2
    Does the professor or the department have a written policy for absences during exams?

    Is there a faculty member involved with the engineering competition? Going through them might offer the most diplomatic option. Maybe a fairer option would be to ask that the final exam count for the final and midterm scores.
     
  4. Feb 11, 2008 #3
    How long did your friend know about the engineering competition? Was he a competitor or a spectator? If he was a spectator, he shouldn't have gone anyway and if he was a competitor he should have been able to give sufficient notice and/or make other arrangements to take the mid-term.

    Part of an education is being held responsible for the decisions we make. Perhaps the professor considers testing outside of the scheduled time to be an inconvienence, especially since it was not due to circumstances beyond control.
     
  5. Feb 11, 2008 #4

    chroot

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    The department can override final grades, regardless of whether or not the professor is tenured. If your friend does not get the final grade he/she feels is deserved, he/she should see the department chair.

    - Warren
     
  6. Feb 11, 2008 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Your friend can talk to the chair.

    That said, I don't expect much. The professor could have said, "didn't show up - gave him the zero", but instead cut your friend a break. Your complaint is that the professor didn't cut him enough of a break. You're entitled to your opinion, but that's a position its hard to get any mileage out of.
     
  7. Feb 11, 2008 #6

    chroot

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    The school almost certainly has rules that force the teaching staff to permit absences for school-related functions like competitions. I doubt the rules make any specific mention of required notice (check your school's bulletin). If they do not make any mention of required notice, it's reasonable to ask the department to override the professor.

    - Warren
     
  8. Feb 11, 2008 #7

    stewartcs

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    Did your friend actually miss the exam and then ask to take it late, or did he just ask two days prior to the exam if he could take it late?

    How do you know your professor's reasoning? Did he actually say that it was due to him being insulted?

    CS
     
  9. Feb 11, 2008 #8

    cristo

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    I wouldn't say that I agree with the teacher making his exam harder and longer, but I definitely agree with the point the teacher makes about giving short notice of missing an exam. Surely the competition was something that had been planned, and thus the student should have told the department as soon as he knew. If it wasn't planned, and the student decided to go two days before his exam, then I wouldn't blame the teacher if he said that the exam couldn't be missed. What would happen if every student decided to skip exams for some "good" reason, and only gave two days notice? It would be an administrative nightmare!!
     
  10. Feb 11, 2008 #9

    Moonbear

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    What does the syllabus say about make-up exams, acceptable reasons to miss an exam, and how much notice needs to be given? If the syllabus says no make-up exams, or no rescheduling of exams except for sudden, serious illness, then the professor may be doing him a favor to allow a make-up exam at all. As cristo pointed out, this should have been something he could have made arrangements for WELL in advance, and to wait until the last minute is just plain rude. He knew when his exam was being held likely from the very first day of class, so should have planned accordingly to be there, and the MOMENT he knew there was a potential conflict, should have at that time talked to the professor and found out if he could schedule the exam for a different day/time that was convenient FOR THE PROFESSOR in order to attend the competition, or find out at that time that he would not be permitted to miss the exam and thus should not enter the competition.

    If the syllabus does make an allowance for a make-up exam, and 2-days notice is considered sufficient, then he can talk to someone in the department office about it. But, don't expect a whole lot of sympathy unless it's very clearly permitted in the syllabus.
     
  11. Feb 11, 2008 #10
    also the dean can intervene if your friend really wants to take it there.
     
  12. Feb 12, 2008 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    Well, in theory. In theory he could also work his way up to the provost, the president, and the trustees. But as a practical matter, if the professor and the department head have both shot down the student, asking progressively busier and more removed administrators to intervene is less and less likely to result in a different decision.

    Also, one runs the risk that the different decision is "you don't like the alternative exam protocol the professor came up with? Fine - we can go with the original one. Oh, you got a zero on that one? Sorry to hear that."
     
  13. Feb 12, 2008 #12
    lots of unsympathetic people in this thread. is inconvenience sufficient reason to sabotage a student's grade? maybe teaching my friend a "life lesson" is? making an example of him cristo? i don't understand how someone here or anyone at all can say that an administrative hassle is more costly than a student's gpa.

    the design competition was organized by a faculty member at the engineering school who wrote letters and spoke with the professor. my friend was a competitor.
     
  14. Feb 12, 2008 #13
    Then he had more than two days available to make other arrangements. In the working world if you had a presentation and two days prior announced that you forgot to mention you were going on vacation, you would cancel your vacation or find another job.
     
  15. Feb 12, 2008 #14

    cristo

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    But that's because you're not an administrator, and so never have to see anything that happens to keep departments running. You shouldn't overlook the amount of work that school administrators put in and how vital they are!

    Anyway, the point I was trying to make, which seems to have been missed, was that you or any other student cannot expect people to bend over backwards for you if you don't make any effort at all! Two days is, to me, nowhere near enough notice to give on missing an exam, and I would never dream of springing that upon a professor and expecting him to reschedule the exam to whenever pleases you. Again, professors are not just there to teach you!

    Regardless, the student should have had a word with the professor just to make sure that he had heard about this. The engineering faculty may have just advised him that this was going on and to bear it in mind if he had students coming up to him asking to miss the exam. Besides, why did the student ask the professor two days before then exam? If he was going to ask at all, then it should have been with plenty of time. If he presumed that the engineering faculty had taken care of it, then there would be no need for him to ask.

    There's a lesson here anyway: don't rely on other people doing something that will affect your grades (or life!). It is always better to double, or triple check things like this rather than assuming it will all be fine.
     
  16. Feb 12, 2008 #15
    It takes a lot of work to make up a good exam. It is not so easy just to make up another exam for an absent student.

    I think a fair compromise recognizes that the student was absent for a valid reason (even though the absence should have been reported to the professor as soon as the competition was scheduled). At the same time, the absence shouldn't create extra work for the prof, which was why I proposed that the final exam could count for the midterm as well.
     
  17. Feb 12, 2008 #16
    The basic question is in my mind is: Did your friend have a good reason for believing he could miss the exam and make it up for full credit? So far, I haven't seen one. If he did, provide it and we'll be much more sympathetic.

    My next question would be: What did the professor say when your friend talked to him two days before the competition? If he implied the exam could be made up for full credit then your friend has every right to be upset. If he told your friend that he would take a 'revised exam' (or just get a 0) then your friend doesn't have a leg to stand on. If he wasn't definitive either way, the responsibility defaults to your friend and he is, once again, legless.
     
  18. Feb 13, 2008 #17
    I'm curious now, how common are make up midterms. I'm in my 3rd year and I don't know of anyone who has recieved one. I didn't even know that happened after grade 12.
     
  19. Feb 13, 2008 #18
    You make the professor sound like hes the bad guy, when its clearly your friends lack of forethought in informing his professor. If he cares about his GPA, he will skip the competition.

    You pretty much had to be dead to get a makeup exam around here (Or religious holiday).
     
  20. Feb 13, 2008 #19

    Moonbear

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    We refer all requests for make-up exams to the dean's office. If the dean decides it's a legitimate excuse, we give a make-up, and if the dean says no, we don't have to worry about a lengthy appeal process when we refuse to give a make-up. We get very few requests for make-up exams when students know they have to go straight to the dean to make their request.

    I don't set the grading policy in the courses I teach, but my personal opinion on matters of taking exams while ill is that I'm more likely to be lenient for the person who shows up and takes the exam and scores poorly (i.e., drop that exam or weight it less if they do well on all the others) than for the person who demands a make-up exam, especially if they don't sound like they're on death's door. I am nicer than my professors were...if a student shows up to an exam and needs to keep a trashcan nearby for vomiting into, I send them home and will reschedule a make-up, unlike when I was a student and we did have someone do that in an exam, and completed the exam clinging to a trashcan every so often (rather distracting for everyone else in the room too, by the way).
     
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