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Problems with uni lecturer

(23 Posts)
FrazzledBrainedStudent Sun 29-Oct-17 10:44:54

I’m not sure whether I’m asking for advice or just offloading but I really need to share some stuff with you all as it’s dragging me down. I’ll try and keep it is brief as possible but there’s so much to talk about and I don’t want to drip feed, so apologies for the length…

I’m a mature (40s) third year university student in the UK studying a science subject. For context, at the end of my first year I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia which impacts my ability to study in some ways and consequently I am entitled to certain help; access to the lecture slides before lectures, weekly meetings with my disability tutor, extra time in exams, the use of voice to text software, use of audio recording in lectures, etc. Unfortunately I have issues with the course leader (let’s call him CL) who also takes some modules.

1. Throughout year 1 CL was crap at putting lecture slides on Blackboard (online, where all lecture information goes). He would often say he would do it then forget/post the wrong ones, and it would often be many days or weeks before we would get them. Which brings me on to point 2…

2. I set up a students’ only Facebook group page for my course/year, partly so we could share things privately as a group and partly so, as the then student rep, I could gauge problems. A few weeks into year 2 I asked the group if anyone else felt the lecture slide issue was a problem. I also had a bit of a moan about the fact CL decided to use Wiki instead of Blackboard for course information, yet still hadn’t given us the login details despite our reminders. Plus a few other general observations/gripes about the course. Some people agreed with me, either on the page or face-to-face, others didn’t comment.

3. Relating to note 2, in class CL called me and the other student rep at the time, for a private word outside. He said it had “come to his attention that someone had offloaded on Facebook”. He said that we shouldn’t do this as it spreads negativity throughout the group, so any issues we should go to him (this may be true, but since then I have suspicions that it’s for other reasons which I’ll go into later). It was extremely uncomfortable as I figured that if someone had told him about my post they would also have told him that it was from me. It all felt rather passive-aggressive, and was also ignoring the fact that he knows there’s an issue so there’s no point going to him! But on a far more upsetting note, I now couldn’t trust the group as I had no idea who the grass was.

4. The problems with the lecture slides continued throughout the 2nd year and to present day. Despite him knowing that it was recommended that I have the slides in advance, in the original one slide per page format (rather than the 4 slides per page PDFs that he posts them in) so it would sync with my disability notetaker software (and I can print them out how I like), pretty much every week I have to email him and ask for them. This was taking up quite a bit of headspace when I should have been able to focus completely on lectures and assignments and was seriously pissing me off. He’s very good at talking about positive attitudes though!

He is also prone to what I would consider inappropriate comments and has form for discussing other lecturers and students in class (even slagging off a previous student before he remembered he was doing this in front of a relative of hers!)…
5. One member of the group was assaulted and CL mentioned it in class. It was not meant for public consumption, he was told in private and if the person wanted the whole class to know they’d have put it on the group FB page!

6. In casual conversation with me and a classmate CL said “there’s someone in this group that I don’t trust”. Unfortunately before I could ask him who that was he was summoned by another lecturer and had to go. Since then I’ve been even more paranoid and not sure who to trust.

7. During a tutorial he said that he didn’t think I was dyslexic, that I had a dopamine deficiency instead. This is despite having gone through 4 stages of assessment totalling 4 hours, by a professional whose job it is to assess people for learning disabilities. He may as well have said I don’t deserve to be helped because there’s nothing wrong with me. By this time I’m not just paranoid but am bloody angry too.

8. In a lecture, CT said “it’s never a good idea to upset your lecturers”. It was like a thinly veiled threat; “don’t upset me or I’ll make your time at uni a bit less pleasant” or “I’ll mark your assignments a little more harshly”. Which brings me onto the next point…

9. I felt his marking of a reflection assignment was harsh (a C- compared to the A+ I got in another module for a reflection), because he didn’t like the plan I made. My plan was, so I have better time management and can keep up with my work better, to make a weekly action plan and share it with my disability tutor. She would not be doing anything other than asking me how I’d got on with my plan, which I felt would be enough to keep me on track. However, CL told me I was “relying too much on her”, despite him regularly telling us that we should form study groups and do something similar to encourage each other with assignments! Another (good) mature student also felt he marked her assignment harshly.

10. He can’t be trusted to reply to emails. He says they fall off the bottom of his screen so if we’ve not received a reply to email him again. Problem with that is how long after the 5 working days do we assume he’s not going to answer? This wastes our time, and having to chase people up is using up head space as well as adding to stress. Oh, he makes a big deal about us being organised BTW!

11. I had a tutorial booked with him for a day I wasn’t on campus but he stood me up. This meant I had a 2 hour round trip for nothing, but I barely received an apology from him. He’s done this to others too.

12. CL is very into psychology and more and more I feel as though he’s manipulated us. He frequently told us how happy all his past students were, how much they loved certain assignments and how much of a cohesive group they were. However I have since found out this is not the case. Two ex-students of his have told me they had complained about certain elements of the course (and his behaviour towards them) yet nothing has changed, and both were prepared to make formal complaints. They also said that there wasn't a single person who thought he was good by the end of their course. Oddly enough it always seems to be the mature students that have the most issues with him. Their theory is that we can see through his bullshit! We think that his discouragement of us moaning to each other, him constantly telling us how happy everyone else has been, how good his course feedback is that we start questioning our unhappiness; I must be the only one with the problem right? I must just be grumpy everyone else is happy right?

There’s more, but it all sounds petty and this post has been ridiculously long enough. I don’t know what I’m asking by posting this, but if you’ve got this far thank you.

OfficerGrant Sun 29-Oct-17 10:56:46

Quite alot going on there. These are my thoughts. (I did an MSc at a supposedly amazing uni but had a few lecturer issues)

He sounds like he has an ego the size of a planet. He sounds like he's been like this for years. This is tricky.

First off are your exams anonymously marked? Then at least your exams won't be discriminated against.

What I would do next-
Type up a bullet point summary of your practical course needs.
Go and see someone more senior in the department. Or do you have a 121 tutor too?
Make them aware of your practical needs and how they aren't being met at the moment.

Is the university 'positive about disablity' accredited? If so you could talk to the person who does the internal audits and make them aware of the situation that you are trying to work with.

Basically he needs to be given a bollocking. He needs to set up an email filter for students emails so he doesn't miss them. Needs to put the files onto the right system in the right timeframe.

He just needs to be more considerate. I'm hoping a more senior member of faculty can pull him up on this.

Good luck, it's very tricky x

FrazzledBrainedStudent Sun 29-Oct-17 11:32:52

Thanks Officer.
In theory the assignments and exams are anonymously marked. However, my student number stands out from the other 16 people on the course as I was at the uni a few years back and I kept that number (the first 2 numbers are the year we start, so everyone else's starts with 15). Plus I'm the only one who uses voice to text software in exams, so the only one with a printed exam paper rather than hand-written. I stand out unfortunately.

I have a personal academic tutor who I spoke to last year about the lecture slide issue, he said he'd speak to CL but nothing changed. I also brought it up in years 1 and 2 in the bioscience courses meeting (where the reps feedback to the lecturers) and CL's manager was there. I also mentioned it to her another time whilst discussing something else. Nothing changed. I could, of course, tell her again and make it formal, but I'm so worried about the repercussions after what CL said about upsetting lecturers. Also, one of the ex-students had an awful time with him after she stuck her head above the parapet and I'm finding uni hard enough as it is without extra stress. I feel as though I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place at the moment; complain and things may improve but the atmosphere could be hellish (he's my dissertation supervisor too!).

The uni offers a lot of support RE disabilities. It then relies on lectuers doing what they're supposed to. I saw a counsellor last year to try and help me cope with it all and she was pleasant but useless (others have said the same). The uni set up a disability forum and I mentioned the lecture slide issue on that. This was supposedly fed back to all lectuers but same old.

You're right, he needs a bollocking, but I think his ego won't take it lying down sad. What's so sad is that the course is interesting, yet I was seriously considered leaving last year and was getting increasingly upset at the thought of going back after summer break. and I'm usually a positive, non-teary person. Bastard! angry

FrazzledBrainedStudent Sun 29-Oct-17 11:33:34

Officer, what were your lecturer issues if you don't mind me asking?

Walkingdead11 Sun 29-Oct-17 11:38:58

Eek I feel your pain! I was a mature student who also was diagnosed with discalculia while on my degree and was treated appallingly by some of my lecturers. I also had a baby and a mum with dementia so frequently had to get extensions with my assignments. I found that many of the lecturers on my course to be ego driven asshats who had 0 empathy for the plight of mature students, especially mothers and wish I'd have made official complaints. I did get my degree but my time at uni was marred by my experience. It's difficult because they mark your work and can make things very difficult if they perceive you as a trouble maker. It's so wrong!

FrazzledBrainedStudent Sun 29-Oct-17 11:48:02

That's terrible Walking. As you say, they can make things difficult but it's hard to prove that's what they're doing. I'm not the paranoid type but not being able to trust him and not knowing who the dodgy one(s) in the class are is so toxic.

I'm keeping all his emails and all my emails to him, and when I leave next summer I'll collate all the info and make a formal complaint. A shitty lecturer can be the difference between a good and a not so good degree classification because coping with their fuckwiittery takes so much headpsace it's harder to focus on the actual work. I lose whole days in a fog over this.

LIZS Sun 29-Oct-17 11:51:57

Do you access Student Support/DSA? Making a complaint after the event won't help you longer term , ask them to get involved so you can gain benefit now. It seems unusual to be so reliant on the whims of a single lecturer, what about other course modules? How much is the course he teaches in the overall picture!

Callamia Sun 29-Oct-17 12:03:35

I am a university lecturer, and your course leader sounds like an arse. Sorry about this.

You should have a head of undergraduate affairs/studies/whatever in your department/school. I would advise talking to them.

Please don’t wait to make a complaint - it’s a waste of your time now. You want these issues resolved rather than stewing on them.

Do you have staff-student forum meetings? There should be official channels where you can flag these concerns without needing to do it face-to-face with the person causing the problems.

One other thing, I don’t think any good has ever come from course Facebook groups. They seem to be a hotbed of misinformation and students winding each other up about things that are entirely resolvable. There are better, more inclusive, methods of communicating with your group.

Ellboo Sun 29-Oct-17 12:19:14

Also a lecturer, and think you’ve had good advice from a previous poster here. Yes to raising the concern sooner with head of UG teaching (we also have a dedicated member of staff for women to go to in confidence - have you anything like that, for mature students or disability issues?)
I’d also caution against letting it sound personal (although it does sound like you frankly dislike each other). Keep it brief, specific, and focused on your needs and rights.
For what it’s worth, I’m truly sorry a crappy lecturer is making your life more difficult.

grannysmiff Sun 29-Oct-17 12:19:35

I actually think you sound like hard work tbf

Sofabitch Sun 29-Oct-17 12:28:27

I'm pretty sure lecturers putting the lecture slides up late came up at every single student staff consultation meeting.

Can you ask for your work to be double marked?

Not sure why they are alphabetically grading at university level.

How often are you emailing him ? I think i probably emailed my lecturers like 20 times in my whole degree.

This sounds like a mix of him being a bit shit and you having unrealistic expectations.

FrazzledBrainedStudent Sun 29-Oct-17 12:35:31

Do you access Student Support/DSA? Making a complaint after the event won't help you longer term, ask them to get involved so you can gain benefit now
I think I'm going to have to do that. It seems to be the least risky way of dealing with it. I've asked CL twice now to email me the module guide for one module (the link on Blackboard is broken...I've told him this twice) so I can give it to my disability tutor. He's yet to do so. If she can assure me that she'll deal with it in a way that makes it seem his inactions are causing her issues rather than it being a complaint from me I'd be happier. I'll have a word with her.

It seems unusual to be so reliant on the whims of a single lecturer, what about other course modules? How much is the course he teaches in the overall picture!
In semester 1 I have 4 modules (3 lectures/week plus my dissertation that I do at home), all but 1 is run by him. Next semester he only runs 2. It's become consuming because it's been going on for so long I suppose.

I am a university lecturer, and your course leader sounds like an arse. Sorry about this.
Thanks Callamia. Yes, we have staff-student forum meetings which is where I'd highlighted the issue before when I was rep. I'll contact one of the new reps and hope I can trust her not to say it's come from me. I have trust issues these days!

I don’t think any good has ever come from course Facebook groups...There are better, more inclusive, methods of communicating with your group
Such as? The FB page has been really useful when students had questions about assignments, have shared interesting articles, etc. whereas we aren't the most cohesive group in real life; although there's not been any major fallings out we've naturally formed 3 smaller groups and don't mix much. But everyone on the course is a group member which means any info is gauranteed to be seen by all, and it's a lot less messy than group emails.

FrazzledBrainedStudent Sun 29-Oct-17 12:58:37

I actually think you sound like hard work tbf
Really? How so? According to disability "rules" I (and 2 others in my group) are entitled (god I hate that phrase!) to the lecture slides prior to the lectures. It's the same amount of work whether he uploads them the day before or the week after. He also chooses to tweak his slides and upload them in 4 slides per page format (extra work for him again) because he's paranoid people will plagorise his lectures. Fair enough, but he knows it's then incompatible with the software students like me have been given.

Can you ask for your work to be double marked?
No idea, but I'll look into it.

Not sure why they are alphabetically grading at university level
They mark in numbers then convert them to grades. No idea why they do that but I like it.

This sounds like a mix of him being a bit shit and you having unrealistic expectations
If it was just me with the issue I'd think I was, but so many others (from this groups and previous years) also complain about him. I've just found out that the year below me are starting to get annoyed about the same issues too. A student from a few years back summed it up really well. She said, in year 1 everyone thinks he's fantastic, year 2 they realise he's not so great, and by year 3 almost everyone thinks he's an arse for some reason or another. Thing is, most people don't complain as they don't want to stick their heads above the parapet or they think it's just them with petty gripes. But all added together and it's obvious there's a problem.

How often are you emailing him?
Every time he doesn't send me the lecture slides as he's supposed to, so pretty much weekly or fortnightly. I never have to contact any other lecturers and I never need tutorials, so I'm not exactly needy apart from needing lecture slides. To save him the job I even suggested he put them on my USB stick immediately after lectures whilst it's already on his laptop, but he said no. Besides, he knows he's bad at remembering to do things so will tell people to remind him.

NurseButtercup Sun 29-Oct-17 13:48:37

I'm also currently a mature student and agree that some university lecturers are a pita and some are great. Some also "forget" that you're an adult and speak/treat you like a child, I've learned to bite my tongue and suck it up. My advice to you is choose your battles.

From what I've read, the main issue is about early access to slides. You've tried the direct approach and that's failed - so follow advice of pp and escalate to Head of Department.

I would also suggest you take a step back from being the course rep and re-focus your energy into your studies. You've got approximately 6 months left to do the reading you need in order to graduate with a good degree and move on with your life. Do you really think it's wise to spend your last few precious months wrangling over the ego & poor practices of one lecturer??

Good luck flowers

HouseholdWords Sun 29-Oct-17 13:51:33

You e got some legitimate complaints but moaning about them on Facebook is NOT the way to deal with them. You also sound paranoid. Believe me, we are all too busy to carry grudges against students or recognise their student ID numbers on exam papers.

Find the correct way to make a complaint about the things that are problematic for your disability.

The main thing seems to be the lecture slides. Remember these are his intellectual property (I wish student disability services would remember this) and his work. But yes, he should make them available. Are there other things you could do to help you in lectures: get permission to record them, for example?

See your Personal Tutor and/or your Department's Director of Studies (or Director of Education).

But get over all the emotional stuff about him disliking or not trusting you or whatever. It makes you sound paranoid. Honestly, most of us academics are working too hard on multiple things, to have the energy or desire to remember students or like or dislike them.

PsychedelicSheep Sun 29-Oct-17 14:03:35

I can’t believe he’s ‘diagnosed’ you with a dopamine deficiency rather than dyslexia?! It is NOT his place to speculate on your condition, did he say this in front of other students too? What a prick!

FrazzledBrainedStudent Sun 29-Oct-17 14:28:55

I would also suggest you take a step back from being the course rep
That's exactly what I've done and we now have 2 new reps. I'm trying not to think too much about CL, but I have good days and bad days. Today is a bad day which is why I'm offloading on MN.

But get over all the emotional stuff about him disliking or not trusting you or whatever
I have no idea if he likes me or not. Or whether he trusts me or not. He only said to me and another student, "there's someone in this group I don't trust". I took that at face value, that it wasn't directed at either of us. However, it hardly helps us all bond as a group, something he makes a big deal about, does it! And WTF does "it's never a good idea to upset your lecturers" (directed at the whole class) mean anyway?! What's he planning to do if he's upset with someone? Can you not see how an accumulation of little comments like this over the past 2 years, and from what other students have told me about his behaviour when they've stood up to him, might just make me a little jittery and emotional? But rest assured, when I do make a formal compaint it will be totally unemotional and factual, and nothing will be open me up to being called "paranoid". Excuse me if I just have a vent on here though!

we are all too busy to carry grudges against students or recognise their student ID numbers on exam papers
As I said, I'm the only one in a small class who types rather than hand writes my exams. Plus I have an unusual student number. The combination wouldn't be hard to remember should he want to. And from what I've been told he does bear grudges!

It is NOT his place to speculate on your condition, did he say this in front of other students too?
Unfortunately he did it during a private tutorial, and I wasn't recording it either. I was so gobsmacked I couldn't even say anything.

Walkingdead11 Sun 29-Oct-17 14:31:03

Academics, such as HouseholdWords, tend to stick together and believe me they can and DO hold on to grudges against students...particularly those that are not 19 years old and more than capable of seeing through their bullshit!! Take it to head of year, it's disgusting that you should have to endure such incompetence but some academics live in their own (I'm very clever you know) bubble and should be held accountable.

FrazzledBrainedStudent Sun 29-Oct-17 15:25:10

OK, I've sent an email to the disability team about the lecture slide issue. I feel safer doing that than going direct to the head of the institute at this stage. Hopefully they will send a global reminder to all lecturers so at least it's not obviously come from me. If that doesn't solve the problem I'll have to take my chances and go to her again.

HouseholdWords Sun 29-Oct-17 16:31:39

Wouldn't it be simpler to focus on what you can control, and record the lectures? That way you can go over them in your own time, and learn the important skill of listening & working out what are the important bits of the lecture for your learning. (It's a very useful skill to have for any future career).

And as for lecturers "sticking together" and "holding grudges" - even if we could be arsed to invest in students in that way, the system of anonymous marking, moderation and/or blind second marking (also anonymous ), plus scrutiny by at least one External Examiner means that by that point, any personal feelings of the lecturer towards a student (trust me, it's so rare) which might result in an anomalous mark are worked through, ironed out, and generally queried.

The thing is, students often have an over-emotive response to what might be normal lecturing practices. Often student anxieties, dissatisfaction with themselves, finding the material uncongenial or difficult - all those things - can be projected onto the course, the degree or the lecturer.

I think you have a reasonable case to query the continued lack of acknowledgement of the accommodations that have been agreed. (Although remember that - at least in my experience - lecturers are not consulted about "reasonable adjustments" and I've seen some unrealistic ones coming through from our access service). Students also can have unreasonable expectations, although that isn't the case for you OP - the adjustments you list are pretty standard, and most lecturers wouldn't have any difficulty accommodating them.

I sometimes don't write lecture notes, or use slides, and use interactive methods with my lecture groups. And in seminars the emphasis is on the students' speaking and participating, not the tutor.

Good luck with getting the slides, but try to rise above everything else. And record the lectures - that you can control, and it should be quite useful for you, re-listening and picking out what you find to be the crucial bits.

FrazzledBrainedStudent Sun 29-Oct-17 17:30:10

Thanks Household.
I agree with you RE it being very hard for lecturers to mark students down without risking their careers. I suppose I was confused why he would tell the class that our reflections can't be "wrong" because it's subjective and how we achieve our goals is personal, then telling me he didn't like my action plan despite the fact I'm using it and it's working! Anyway, I'm not going to mention that in my complaint as I can't prove or disprove it.

I can also imagine some students being needy and unrealistic. However, I spent all of year 1 being empathic whenever he'd apologise for yet another week where we didn't have the information he'd promised (incorrect module guides, no lecture slides, no log-in details, etc). I'd think, he's human, we all forget, we all mess up, he's busy, etc (although none of the other lecturers have a problem). But when that spilled into year 2 and he's still coming out with the same excuses I'm getting empathy fatigue. Now it's still happening in year 3 I'm just angry, especially when I hear he's been like it for years.

He is consulted RE my requirements because I've been issued a certificate with them listed and he has a copy.

I do record all lectures, but then I have 3 lots of 4 hour recordings each week, and without the slides to match them it's not as handy as it may seem. I was given the dictaphone so I could sync the slides with the recordings in my disability software (it matches each slide with its section of recording so I can easily go back to particular parts and listen to them). All my lecturers use PowerPoint so it can work brilliantly, especially for revision. Except when I dont have the slides of course.

HouseholdWords Sun 29-Oct-17 17:46:56

He is consulted RE my requirements because I've been issued a certificate with them listed and he has a copy.

Not necessarily. We simply get told there are letters about reasonable adjustment that we have to download from a secure site in our student record system. Lecturers are not consulted or asked at all. It's a flaw in the system, in my view.

FrazzledBrainedStudent Sun 29-Oct-17 18:04:29

It seems to vary between universities by the sound of it, Household. Where I am it's up to students to forward a copy of their disability certificates to all their lecturers, and it's something I do each year. I personally emailed him a copy of mine.

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