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Professor that is rude/arrogant

  1. Nov 10, 2012 #1
    I have a professor that likes to use tactics of public humiliation on his students. He does things like call on you for an answer, and if you don't know he will continue drilling on the same student over and over again. He is quick to make any smartass remarks to any questions.

    Like for example, I asked ''Could you eat a lot of cholesterol in your diet and still not die of heart disease?'' which he replied with "sure, you can die in a car crash before dying of heart disease''. These types of things.

    He definitely shows signs of arrogance.

    I feel powerless to do anything because this guy ultimately decides my fate grade wise. Do I just take the beating until the end of the semester and stay quiet, or is there something I can do about it? It actually is at the point where I think it definitely affects the learning environment, and it's not exactly a comfortable place to learn, and its bothered me to the point of making a thread about it, so...
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 10, 2012 #2


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    The first option you have is to talk to him directly about his teaching approach. It's always difficult to tell from a short posting like this what's really going on. It is entriely possible that in this professor's experience, when students are aware they are going to be called on for answers they made it a higher priority to come to class prepared and engage in discussion. On the other hand he may not be aware that his teaching approach is making some students uncomfortable. You're paying for the course, you do have right to feel at least somewhat comfortable during lectures.

    Beyond that (I realize sometimes a face-to-face chat can be intimidating) you can speak with your academic advisor, or the associate chair of the department and bring up these concerns.
  4. Nov 10, 2012 #3
    I would suck it up. Professors have too much power and there is no reason why you should bear the consequences. The student union may be able to apply some pressure. There may be an evaluation at the end of the course and if it is bad enough they can do some stuff. You can write anonymous letters, to a student magazine or the department head. The student union can make sure that students know to avoid the professor's courses and he doesn't get PhD or master students from inside the university. Those are about the worst consequences that a professor can have for being a bad professor, except if he is publicly sexist or something similar that might break his neck politically. None of these things will help you right now, so hang in there, and don't stick your head out.
  5. Nov 10, 2012 #4
    Life is like that...only you can decide how much it impacts your personally.
    Some professors are bullies and so are some bosses. Is a good teacher and a demanding
    one?? that's one thing if you are learning. But if he is not good, you are not learning, you might be better to get out.

    You can also take the offensive: be fully prepared, volunteer regularly to
    answer his questions, avoid asking yours. Maybe he feels questions detract from
    the brilliance of his lectures??

    You can also discuss the issue with another student or two whom you know. Not in a derogatory way, but like "I sometimes feel intimidated by the prof, have you felt that way?"
  6. Nov 10, 2012 #5
    Well it always seems like he rushes through the lectures to get out as quick as possible, I get the feeling that he doesn't want to really be there. The thing is, I'm at a community college, so it's not like he has research to tend to, his sole job is to teach.

    It sucks having someone breath down your neck in the lab and telling you every little thing you are doing wrong. He targets kids that have less than spectacular english and will drill them with questions in the lab room. This one kid next to me ended up dropping because he was the main target. The professor would take his stuff and throw it in the chemical waste if he put a magnetic stirbar in a solution instead of a boiling chip, when it was common practice to use a stirbar, but for whatever reason this time it had to be a boiling chip, even though he never said anything about it.

    I was the target last week during the quiz, I was quickly writing my answer down as he came by to collect the quiz and he waited for 5-10 seconds for me to finish writing, then said ''well I can't read it anyway'' just to get everyone in the class to laugh at me.

    He actually will talk about anything other than chemistry if given the opportunity, sports, pop culture, etc and seems annoyed whenever I have chemistry questions in the lab. I consider myself to have ''tough skin''. I mean, I'm not extremely emotional about it or anything and I try to let it go, but he is getting away with this behavior and it seems that something should be done about it.
  7. Nov 10, 2012 #6
    If it's a bad as you indicate, consider getting a few classmates together and send a letter
    to the dean...either have everyone sign it ...or make it anonymous as 'from three students'

    but beware: if he has only one class of the type described and your letter identifies which class, he sounds like he might seek the authors for vengeance.....

    another alternative is to have the three students visit the dean or other authority and
    speak directly.

    In any case, make your case using examples and facts, not just emotion....and be sure
    to explain how his behavior is preventing/hindering learning....
  8. Nov 10, 2012 #7
    I've had my share of profs like that, most of the time they're mediocre at their job but try to hide it by deliberately making students feel stupid, with no perceptible healthy academic intention behind it. Do what the other posters have suggested at your own risk.

    Be humble, study and master the subject on your own through other resources if the teacher seems unapproachable (well, you should always use other resources anyway). Doing this, once near the end of a course I found a deadly mistake in one of the exams a professor gave that made the resolution of a problem impossible under any sensible argument. When I humbly approached him about it in his office, at first he was on the defensive but eventually gave in, extremely embarrassed he didn't spot the mistake in a problem he himself concocted.

    I'm sure that made him a lot more humble and I suspect (hope) he probably isn't as annoying to his students during lectures. (Note that I do think he was a good rigorous and proper lecturer and he was actually a good/active researcher at that, but treating students like crap without giving them the benefit of doubt was just offensive.).
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2012
  9. Nov 10, 2012 #8
    I fear you're just going to have to tough up and soldier through it. Professors are mighty people. And if the professor is as rude and arrogant as you describe, then he probably won't hesitate to ruin your GPA.

    Speaking to him personally might help, but it might also make things worse. So you might want to think twice about that.

    Going to the dean might help on the condition that you remain anonymous. Going to the dean after you received the final score in your class is an even better idea. That way, he can't take revenge on you or on the class.

    I know it's not fun to be intimidated and humiliated in class. But I fear that there is little you can do about it now.
  10. Nov 10, 2012 #9


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    Whatever he's really like, your question got pretty much the answer it deserved IMO. They way you asked it shows you don't seem to understand anything about risk and probability in whatever branch of biology you are studying. If the prof has to put up with that type of question every lecture, I'm not surprised he's a bit short tempered!

    If you asked a better version of your question, like ''Could eating a lot of cholesterol in your diet increase your chances of dying from heart disease?'' you might have got a better answer. (That certainly isn't a dumb question IMO, and I expect most people who don't know the answer but think they know about healthy living would guess wrong).
  11. Nov 10, 2012 #10
    Obviously my question had another implication, but instead of forgiving my poor wording of the question, I was put on blast. Thankfully another student actually said out loud (he is a medical student) ''So I'll actually answer your question for you'' and proceeded to do so.
  12. Nov 11, 2012 #11


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    I would advise you to not take offense to everything the person says, but i would also advise you to think about the questions you ask and make sure that if you want to provide an argument to the professor you should think it through.

    If you think you are being unfairly treated with regards to marks and whatever then don't hesitate to find out about it: if you are being denied merit where you have a real case to deserve it then challenge it.

    The only thing is though that you need to make sure you can stand behind your argument and flesh out the contingencies, so that if you do get into a heated debate or confrontation, you can meet it with things that can be checked and outlined simply without the need to resort to emotional backlashes and childish behaviours.

    This is actually good practice for the real world: there are a lot of jerkoffs out there and letting a jerkoff know that they are out of line based on the facts is something you will have to deal with.

    The last thing someone in a position like a professor wants to face is humiliation, especially from a student of all people (which is a lot different from say being humiliated from a higher up, colleague, or other professional at another institution) so if they know you are switched on, and will follow through with things that are out of line then they will back off.

    The thing though about humiliation is that if you proceed with this, you will need to be accountable for everything you do because if it turns out that this guy is nothing but a sore loser, then they will use every chance they can get to burn you.

    If you are careful though and are always ready to defend your marks and state your case and more importantly, understand the limitations and responsibilities you have to do so if the situation arises, then you will be OK.

    Personally though, if you outlined to a professor deficits continually and it ended up having to be reported to a higher up where they were humiliated within the meeting, then the person is probably an idiot and it may even be in the departments interests to sack the guy just to save face of not having the reputation that the idiot works for them (or ask for his resignation, which is probably the more likely choice).
  13. Nov 11, 2012 #12
    Is it possible to go along with him? Laugh at his snarky comments, and join in a little? Make it more of a fun thing instead of something to dread? That takes some of his power away and you can alter his behavior a little by not joining in on the really not funny parts.

    Then report him after you have your final grade?
  14. Nov 11, 2012 #13
    welcome to the real world.
  15. Nov 11, 2012 #14
    As Will Smith once said, "Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad, but hate in your heart will consume you too" (something like that anyway).

    Thus, just make this a lesson:
    A) Don't take a class with this professor in the future
    B) Learn how to deal with a snotty professor, and just talk to his/ult boss at the END of the semester as it is college (professors and loopholes in their course policies).
  16. Nov 11, 2012 #15
    I think the important thing is that you try to learn, no matter what happens. By all means, talk to the dean or talk to the prof or whatever. However, if that doesn't change anything and you don't learn the material well because of it, that's probably going to hurt you a lot more than it'll hurt your professor, especially if this class is a prerequisite for others. Being able to learn/succeed in spite of a poor teacher is unfortunately a good skill to have.
  17. Nov 12, 2012 #16
    I would call that professor out every chance I get. If he/she makes a mistake make them feel stupid as well, I mean if they're doing that to you. Never thrown the first punch. If you have people like this at a future job and you let them run all over you then you're probably going to lose respect from others. I've seen it happen to others because any job has so much politics it makes me sick. In a job sometimes others will come to your rescue and stick up for you but if others don't then it's only you to fight for yourself.

    Since you're in the a science class, you're under the safe haven in respect of grades. It's objective for your grades, either it's right or wrong. Now if this was a humanities professor where grading can be very subjective then I would keep my mouth shut because they really could fail you.
  18. Nov 12, 2012 #17
    I don't know why you skipped the final when you knew it was 25% of your grade.

    (Maybe he isn't *that* big of a pr*ck, but you could be running a substantial risk here.)
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