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How to Complain about a Lecturer...(22 Posts)
Without it backfiring on me via unfair downgrading?
I'm a mature student studying for a professional qualification. I have over 10 years experience in the workplace and have met my fair share of people who dislike me/I dislike but never any as petty as my lecturer.
I've only had her for one term, I barely know her as she barely does me. A few examples of her odd behaviour:
She ignores emails from most students and only replies to a select few - all emails were similar.
I was running late to a tutorial once, my friend informed her to which she replied to the entire group 'great so who has some dirt to dish on her before she gets here?' - most of the group I don't know but plenty felt the need to tell me about this.
I sent her quite a few documents for a project which she told the group I had not and then called me a liar. Luckily I'd copied in other group members with the last few so this clearly wasn't true.
She turns up completely unprepared and doesn't know what we're doing each week. If students ask her questions she says 'don't know, Google it?'
She pushes students to read from a textbook when they absolutely don't want to, this really delays the tutorials and it's often the international students who are forced to do it.
She spends large chunks of the tutorials chatting to students about tv shows, personal things, etc. She also made some inappropriate comments about a male student's physique
Lastly, and the most worrying, she told the same male student his grades would significantly improve if he carried on coming to tutorials with his legs out. In contrast, she threatened to mark a student down because she said she didn't enjoy the tutorials.
She will be marking our assessments so I don't want to ruffle her feathers. There is no way to raise this anonymously either. Should I just leave it?
Are you sure you can't raise it anonymously? Most institutions have an anonymous feedback system at the end of each semester.
We received our feedback form via our blackboard system and it has our name and student number at the top of each page.
I know quite a few students were waiting to complain via the feedback form but now refuse to do so for fear of repercussions.
Do you have a class rep or similar? This is the sort of thing they are often asked to raise but to be honest her behaviour is so inappropriate I would be having a word with the faculty head about it. She would be very stupid to mark people down who have raised concerns, especially when she has threatened to do so and it was mentioned in the complaint.
Yes, funnily enough it was the class rep she threatened to mark down. A large number of our group asked her to raise the issue of our tutorials not being at all helpful in the rep meeting with the course convenor, this was at the beginning of term so we didn't know just how useless they were at this point. The convenor said to give it a chance as it's a difficult topic, seeming to completely miss the point.
This then got back to the lecturer who put the course rep on the spot in the middle of a tutorial asking who had 'bitched about her'. The course rep said she for one didn't enjoy the tutorials but wouldn't give up other names. Lecturer then threatened to mark her down if it was raised again.
I would do two things in this situation, which I think is unresolvable with a nice chat with the lecturer, as they are failing on multiple counts.
I would first clarify whether the feedback given is presented to lecturers anonymously. Ours is completely anonymous and given in aggregate form, so cannot be traced back to students. I'd clarify this with the adminstrators, ours compile the data and make sure it is anonymous.
I'd then go to the Director of Education or Course Moderator who directs the course and make a complaint to them, stressing that you are speaking to them confidentially. They should be able to take this forward without your name, I've handled just such a case recently myself and did not disclose the student name (I asked them if they wanted this or not).
Sadly, given this stage in the term, it's unlikely you will get anyone else, and this is one of the bad points of the lecturing system- if you do complain, generally you are still stuck with them for the year. But the not replying to emails is unacceptable (we have to reply within 2 working days to all) as is the not knowing the material. You may be helping next year's students more than yourself, so if you are realistic about this, complain, and even better if more than one of you do as it adds weight to the whole issue and no-one can say it's a personality difference.
Also, our marked work is blind marked so only with the student number/exam number on it so it would be quite difficult to match these up (but not impossible) and then mark down. I'd be reporting the 'mark down' incident anyway.
Go and speak to the faculty head of course lead. Write down exactly what has happened and when.
See if you can get one or two people to come with you. Or if others will sign a letter to the Head of Faculty. If you all complain she won't be able to do anything. She will probably be disciplined.
This is why I'm always nice to course administrators - they know who to speak to with a view to getting stuff sorted.
If I were you I'd talk to my personal tutor and tentatively ask about it first.
Sometimes it helps to complain, and other times academics close ranks, especially if they were the ones to make the appointments. It shouldn't be like this but sadly it sometimes is.
Dh worked with one woman who openly plagiarised lectures and bullied students - he and some other academics from the department complained with a number of students, and were still given short thrift.
To clarify, my bad experience was at a different uni's from DH's!
When I was a mature student we had a lecturer who was clearly out of their depth - it was apparent from the second session that they were less familiar with the subject than we were.
We collectively complained to the dean. This involved finding a rep (different to the class rep and there for "anonymous" to the tutor) and basically writing short statements about issues we had had. We were very careful not to personally attack this tutor and ensured we provided evidence if possible(we had power points with incorrect "facts" and blatant wikipedia extracts as well as someone's recording of one of the lectures).
The dean assigned a "buddy" for the tutor which basically involved a member of staff from the same department coming and sitting in on the lectures. The tutor was also required to put all course materials onto Blackboard so that they could be reviewed.
I have to say there was a big improvement and the tutor went on to be quite helpful and useful. I think that either they had got a job they weren't qualified for or just couldn't be arsed pulling their weight so a bit different than your problem but still the process we went through could help?
Would it be the course administrators who could clarify if the feedback is anonymous?
I do think a formal complaint is a good idea. I know it won't help my group but would hopefully benefit future students. I just don't want to make it even more difficult for our group though. Even if I was assured confidentiality I would still worry that one of her colleagues would potentially tell her.
We have exams coming up and I'm more stressed about her grading than anything else as she's made it clear she doesn't like me. She has commented on being able to do a simple search of the student number to bring up our names.
It just feels like we're stuck. I could wait until the end of the course to complain?
Sounds insane, plus we have had anonymised marking for years (not always a good thing, but clearly in cases like this it is!). Some options:
Your course rep should bring it up at their next meeting with academic staff
You could talk to the course convenor directly
The department may have an academic in charge of overseeing student experience who you can talk to - ask your personal tutor if you're not sure
Your student union should have someone who can advise you all on how to manage it and can act as a mediator if necessary
How soon are the exams? If they are very soon there's nothing to be gained by complaining right now as there won't be any time to put in place any different strategies anyway. If they are slightly farther away there's more incentive to try and change things.
I would note down, with dates, all the incidents that you mention, so you are building a document that you can then use when you decide to complain.
I would think the course adminstrators would know about the anonymity, or it will be specified somewhere in documents about the feedback process.
The usual thing that happens at our uni if complaints are made are that lecturers are reminded of their responsibilities (e.g. to answer mails), students sometimes move to a different module (not applicable here) or the lecturer gets the feedback/sometimes gets the module taken off them for the following year. It's quite hard to get immediate change but I have to say we don't have serious quality issues with the standard of lecturing, more around personality clashes/admin/miscommunication more than genuinely inadequate teaching. When it does occur, the person is 'moved' onto another module, they aren't left there for the following year.
I've just done some searching and this lecturer was appointed as Student Wellbeing Officer for our department that is odd. It seems she was moved over from a less academic course to fill staff absence and an increase in students.
Can't find anything on the anonymity of the feedback forms so will call the course administrators to check. The deadline to submit them is very soon so it'd be great if we could all get something out there anonymously without the hassle of formally complaining.
Our exams are very soon so I doubt any of us would have the right head space to complain right now but there is a decent gap between the exams and the beginning of next semester so we could do something then.
Our student union is absolutely brilliant so that's a great idea, I'll definitely suggest that.
It's such an awful position to be in. Most of our group is made up of international students who have probably received the worst of her behaviour and I feel terrible for them as they have enough to contend with already. They then look to the home students for advice on how to deal with her but none of us have experienced this before.
I really appreciate all of the advice here, thank you.
Student Wellbeing Officer is just an assigned admin role, it doesn't mean she's any good with students, and if you report above that, to Director of Course, or even higher, Head of Department, then you might point out that given her interactional style, she's not a very appropriate person to do this role.
Oh good. I had visions of being redirected to the Student Wellbeing Officer after complaining and then she's there waiting for me in a villains chair stroking a fluffy white cat!
I'd speak to the admin team as they'll know exactly what procedure to follow.
Exams are typically anonymous anyway if that helps in terms of reassurance.
I would go to the Module lead/unit coordinator. If that is the lecturer then I would go to the Director of Studies. None of this is acceptable. Also, staff student liaison committee? I think others have mentioned course rep but that would be the place to raise this too.
My guess is that your feedback is anonymous btw, it just may not look that way to you. Good to check.
Good luck, this is not okay in any way for you and fellow students.
If this was happening at the university I'm at I'd suggest going directly to the programme lead - i.e. the academic who is in overall charge of the course - and asking to talk to him or her in strict confidence. The programme administrator could also be helpful but give the sorts of issues you're mentioning you'd need to go higher.
Good luck. It sounds really poor tbh.
IME as a lecturer, feedback should be anonymous.
If it's set up via Blackboard, is it by the lecturer or Academic Services? Ask them.
Then most work should be double marked or you should be able to ask for an assessment by an independent marker.