I was never a good student when it came to mathematics. I didn’t understand why I had to find the area of a triangle or the circumference of the sun or even why Sally let her brother eat 17 muffins out of the 356 she made. Honestly, I just thought that was rude of him. Regardless, I never understood mathematics.
My strongest subject in high school was English. I loved to write and listen to stories and read poetry. I dreaded going to math class because I knew it would just be hard for me to understand. So when I went to college, I chose a major that was mostly based on comprehension and in anything but math, except for one class: Statistics.
As much as I hated math, I was interested to see how this class would go because other professors had told me, “Statistics isn’t actually math.” The first day of Math 107, or the Statistics class I was required to take, I was ready to face my demons with enthusiasm. As much as I dreaded the thought of a math class after not taking math for two and a half years, I was optimistic that this wouldn’t be so bad. Wrong. It was terrible, and not because of the math.
I went to college to get a higher education, to be taught by those that were professionals and who could teach me things that I hadn’t known before. The fact that I love to learn has served me well, except when I have a professor who doesn’t care in the slightest.
My first day of Statistics, which I thought would be normal, certainly wasn’t. With my required text for the class in hand, and after finding at least someone I knew to sit down next to, I found a seat just in time before our new professor walked in. The first words out of his mouth were,
I don’t care what you get in this class because I have tenure.
What a great start to the first day of class. So remind me again why I paid as much as I did to sit through what would be the worst class I had ever taken?
His tenure statement set the tone for the whole semester. Not only that but my professor also made a practice of teaching us differently from how the material was presented in the book. Nonetheless, he expected us to do the equations correctly for our homework, which we found in the book. All the homework was being marked as incorrect because we did them according to the book’s instruction, not the way the professor taught in class. The “quizzes,” which all of us continuously failed, were unfair because he consistently asked obscure questions found in about 1% of the text. And I still don’t understand those aspects to this day. When we tried to ask for help, we would be told that if we didn’t get it by now, we would not pass his class and we should probably just withdraw.
The “quizzes,” which all of us continuously failed, were unfair because he consistently asked obscure questions found in about 1% of the text. And I still don’t understand those aspects to this day. When we tried to ask for help, we would be told that if we didn’t get it by now, we would not pass his class and we should probably just withdraw. By the end of that semester, I had an A or A- in every class, except Math 107, in which I received a C.
I felt cheated out of being educated on a subject that I actually needed to know for my major. I had asked around to see if I might’ve been the only one with this problem but, it turns out, this particular professor was like this in most classes. Between not caring about our education to publically shaming students loudly in class, for their bad grades, we began to feel his work was a true breach of the normal academic transactions between student and teacher. It was an example of academic injustice that I had never encountered.
Just because a professor has tenure, should not give them a free pass to essentially say, “Screw you and your education because I just don’t care.” I could’ve learned a lot about Statistics and analytics in that class, but instead, I learned that if a professor has tenure, they may give themselves permission to stop caring and they will not help you when you have trouble learning the material.
Moral of the story, research professors before you take their classes.
Student X is a senior at a New York State University and agreed to share her thoughts only if she were able to remain anonymous.
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